Over the last few years we have seen a disturbing trend in art-house filmmaking. Whether it’s the films of Gasper Noe or Dogtooth or the many other similar films, we have seen a trend of art-house filmmakers trying to take on the torture porn genre. While these films all have an artistic flourish that lesser films of the genre lack, the genre as a whole is just a terrible genre whose sole purpose is to freak you out rather than truly engage with you. As such I couldn’t find anything worthwhile in one of the most acclaimed Austrian films in recent memory, Goodnight Mommy. Goodnight Mommy is the latest film in the art-house torture porn genre, and while it can be a beautiful film to look at in the early goings it quickly becomes a film that has little merit whatsoever as it devolves into a film of intense violence and an increasingly claustrophobic setting.
Goodnight Mommy follows two twin boys (Elias and Lukas Schwarz) as they are reintroduced to their mother (Susanne Wuest with a fantastic performance when she isn’t stuck wallowing in pain on a bed) as she comes home from an extensive medical procedure after an unexplained facial injury. With the mother’s much more authoritarian approach to parenting, the boys begin to suspect that the person they now know as their mother really isn’t their mother at all. This seems like quite an interesting plot for a thriller, which it is. The opening half of this film really plays well as a psychological thriller, and with some top-notch filmmaking from directors Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala and cinematographer Martin Gschlacht it is hard not to admire this film in the opening goings. Even the film’s twists and turns reveal that in the right hands that this could have been a great hitchcockian thriller. However, as the boys suspicions begin to turn to the more extreme, this film devolves into a disturbing tale of violence and the worst in what mankind can do. Obviously, if you are going to make a film about such terrible traits, you better make a damn good film. I don’t want to watch a film about violence and torture just for the sake of violence and torture. Goodnight Mommy is definitely not the former, and the latter half of this film becomes increasingly difficult to watch.
Goodnight Mommy is another example of why not all ideas for a film deserve to actually become a film.