Goodnight Mommy (Ich seh, Ich seh)
by Hope Madden
There is something eerily beautiful about Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz’s rural Austrian horror Goodnight Mommy (Ich seh, Ich seh).
During one languid summer, twin brothers Lukas and Elias await their mother’s return from the hospital. They spend their time bouncing on a trampoline, floating in a pond, or exploring the fields and woods around the house. But when their mom comes home, bandaged from the cosmetic surgery she underwent, the brothers fear more has changed than just her face.
Franz and Fiala owe a great debt to an older American film, but to name it would be to give far too much away, and the less you know about Goodnight Mommy, the better.
Inside this elegantly filmed environment, where sun dappled fields lead to leafy forests, the filmmakers mine a kind of primal childhood fear. There’s a subtle lack of compassion that works the nerves beautifully, because it’s hard to feel too badly for the boys or for their mother. You don’t wish harm on any of them, but at the same time, their flaws make all three a bit terrifying.
The filmmakers’ graceful storytelling leads you down one path before utterly upending everything you think you know. They never spoon feed you information, depending instead on your astute observation – a refreshing approach in this genre.
Performances by young brothers Lukas and Elias Schwarz compel interest, while Susanne Wuest’s cagey turn as the boys’ mother propels the mystery. It’s a hypnotic, bucolic adventure as visually arresting as it is utterly creepy.
The film is going to go where you don’t expect it to go, even if you expect you’ve uncovered its secrets.