Goodnight Mommy Susanne Wuest, Lukas Schwarz, Elias Schwarz. Directed by Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz. Rated R. Opens Friday.
Although its trailer went viral a couple of months ago as “the scariest of all time,” Austrian horror movie Goodnight Mommy is more slow burn than all-out terror. It starts with twin brothers Lukas and Elias (played by real-life twins Lukas and Elias Schwarz) readjusting to the presence of their mother (Susanne Wuest), just home from an unnamed, apparently cosmetic surgical procedure and with her face covered almost completely by bandages. Mom’s uncanny appearance is matched by some unsettling changes in behavior, to the degree that her sons start to suspect she might be an impostor.
Writer-directors Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz create a mounting feeling of dread as Lukas and Elias become more and more certain that something is wrong, and the second half of the movie amplifies that feeling while also twisting it around. The measures the two young boys take to prove that their mother is not really their mother are extreme and often difficult to watch, but they’re no more intense than the emotional upheaval of realizing that a person you love unconditionally has suddenly and irrevocably turned on you. That, more than anything, is what makes the movie truly scary.