Goodnight Mommy, 2022.
Directed by Matt Sobel.
Starring Naomi Watts, Cameron Crovetti, Nicholas Crovetti, Peter Hermann, Jeremy Bobb, and Crystal Lucas-Perry.
Twin brothers arrive at their mother’s house and suspect something isn’t right.
There’s nothing wrong with change in remakes, especially since the original version of Goodnight Mommy packs a devastating twist that shouldn’t be escalated to and redone shot for shot. Director Matt Sobel (alongside screenwriter Kyle Warren) has tinkered with the horrifying work from filmmakers Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala, all in ways for the worse that never allow this American adaptation to reach the psychologically disturbing heights or sinister vibe of its Austrian predecessor from 2014.
While I have not seen the original since its release, it feels like that here, the filmmakers are deliberately trying to give away the reveal, which has the potential to add depth for someone familiar with the source material. It doesn’t. What’s left is a movie that consistently and hilariously telegraphs its twist for an audience that shouldn’t know what’s coming.
The setup remains the same. Following a facial cosmetic surgery, a celebrity mother (played by Naomi Watts, who continues a rough streak of both bad movies and remakes) has her face covered in gauze but is healthy enough to once again look after her twin sibling children. The presumably separated father (a brief appearance by Jeremy Bobb) drops off Elias and Lucas (played by real-life brothers Cameron and Nicholas Crovetti) at the mom’s remote woodland home.
These children seem to be aged up by a few years from the original version, which hurts the story’s credibility and the rationality of the characters’ actions. Basically, Elias and Lucas increasingly become convinced that the woman under the gauze (which is nowhere near as freaky a visual this time around) is not their mom. The Mother exhibits strange behavior such as tossing away crayon family drawings, exclaiming to an unknown individual in privacy on the phone that she doesn’t know how much longer she can pretend, and responding to disobedience with hysteria and smacking one of the children across the face.
Lending plausibility to the brothers’ accusations is a headshot of the Mother with different colored eyes. Not only is this another one of the small changes on display, but it’s one that strongly neuters some of the terror; it’s a far cry from the possibility that the woman is an imposter that the boys know (in the original, they find a photograph of two identical looking women wearing the same outfit). The children, who have to be at least teenagers, also come across as somewhat dumb for not knowing what color-changing eye contacts are or Googling what could cause such a change in appearance.
There is also a scene around 40 minutes in that threatens to take the story in a completely new direction, complete with the CGI creature atrocity, that angered and nearly broke me into turning off the screener link (the only reason I didn’t is so I would still be able to review the movie). Cautiously on edge and nervous that Goodnight Mommy isn’t going to have the guts to go through with even half of the troubling and shocking chaos that the original builds to, at this point, I’m just trying to enjoy the performances and hoping for at least one thoughtful tweak to the story.
This iteration of Goodnight Mommy has no suspense, Naomi Watts is mostly terrible aside from the third act, the twin brothers look foolish and don’t get nearly enough opportunities to be chillingly cruel in their suspicions, and the ending has been retooled to send a halfhearted message on gun violence lazily. There is not a single reason to seek this version out. However, check out the original; it’s a sadistic and psychologically tormenting pleasure.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com