Gores Truly is femme-driven but certainly not man-hating. Occasionally, we like to give our readers a chance to contribute to the horror-fest that we all adore – including those wielding the Y-Chromosome. The following article has been Murder-Her approved. Watch out! It’s an Invasion of the Y-Chromosome!The first phrase that enters my head when I reflect on Goodnight Mommy is “slow burn.” But this needs more than a little context. In my experiences, there are two types of horror movies that take the slow burn approach. The first, and definitely the rarer of the two, uses a long and steady buildup to create tension. It’s a lengthy process of developing characters, setting, and the general atmosphere of what you’re seeing/about to see. The best of these films not only keep you unsettled but can be as terrifying showing nothing as lesser films are when they hit their mark. The second type of slow burn films are ones that simply take long to reach a payoff, because there isn’t much payoff to start with, and they have to play for time. These two types often get spoken of in the same sentences, and both get fairly or unfairly painted with the broad stroke of being “boring.”
Goodnight Mommy is boring.
There’s a lot of setup to be sure: lots of spooky glances, eerie silences, descents into darkness, and requisite dead animals. Some of these tropes play effective. Others don’t. The film sets up a world that is incredibly insular, consisting of the two brothers, Elias and Lukas, and a woman whom they’re not entirely sure is their mother. Her face is wrapped, skull-like, in bandages after a serious operation whose motive isn’t entirely clear. In fairness, the whole house is full of vagueries, particularly the enormous photos of blurred women. This film is not particularly subtle with its symbolism, going so far as to have them attempt to escape their house and find themselves face to face with a pitchfork-wielding man surrounded by flames.
The onus of the film is on the two boys, who seem legitimately caught off guard by their mother’s new abusive behaviors. But the madness seems to be contagious, and as the mother begins to recover, the boys’ obsession deepens.
The film has received a lot of significant press for its trailer, which is genuinely one of the scariest trailers I’ve seen all year. A lot of critics rightfully point out that the movie the trailer seems to advertise is wildly different than what is delivered, nothing more egregious than one of the trailer’s money shots, which is completely innocuous when not edited out of context. There’s a plot point which I hesitate to even discuss, partially because I wonder if it’s supposed to be significant and partially because of the resounding thud that it makes when it lands. What I feel viewers should be prepared for is that while the atmosphere often strives for a Lars Von Trier Antichrist feel, that parallel becomes more than apt in the final half hour. Three kids walked out at the peak of the gore.
So despite its faults, does Goodnight Mommy end up standing out from the detritus of 2015? It certainly does. It’s a memorable film, and against the usual mess of sequels and remakes, it’s a noticeable event. Just don’t expect something scary.
About the Author: Matthew O’Leary has had work featured in a variety of online publications including Fiction Crowd, Birds Piled Loosely, and Gravel Magazine. Currently, he is seeking a publisher for his manuscript on his mother’s death from pancreatic cancer. His work can be found at matthewoleary.wordpress.com. He lives in Columbia, South Carolina, with his wife.
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