Archive for the ‘Goodnight Mommy (2015)’ Category

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Starz / Anchor Bay

Release Date: December 01, 2015

Region: Region A

Length: 99 min

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 5.1 German DTS HD-MA

Subtitles: English, English SDH

Ratio: 2.39:1

Notes: A DVD edition of this title is also available.

Austrian One Sheet

“Nobody saw it in Austria. We didn’t make it thinking it would be a big success, critically acclaimed and so on. We just made a movie that we knew we would like. We never had grand plans of making a movie that would be released in the [United States]. We never expected it, but we are very, very proud that happened. In Austria most people only want to see films from the [United States], so not too many people came to watch Goodnight Mommy. And now the trailer has been such a success on the internet, people are constantly asking us when the film will be released without realizing it already had been released.” Severin Fiala (Dread Central)

One of the best horror films of the year has a relatively simple premise:

In the heat of the summer lays a lonesome house in the countryside where nine year old twin brothers await their mother’s return.  When she comes home, bandaged after cosmetic surgery, nothing is like before and the children start to doubt whether this woman is actually who she says she is.  What ensues is a terrifying observational struggle with fatal consequences that cannot truly be compared to anything that has come before it.

“The idea was actually born from watching television. On German television, there are these docu-shows in which some women are separated from their families for three months in order to change their looks in a radical way, including through plastic surgery. These women are usually not considered pretty according to society’s standards, so the purpose of the show is to make them more beautiful. When they come back after those three months, there is this moment at which they get to show their new physical appearance to their relatives and friends. It’s supposed to be like a big red-carpet television moment, a very happy moment. However, if you look closely at the children, if there are any, you can always see some kind of uneasiness or distress in their faces. Even after we had already shot the film, there was an episode in which a child said, ‘That is not my mum.’ He was really scared. So that is where we got the idea from.” -Severin Fiala (Cineuropa)

Their idea was brilliant and quite relevant to contemporary society. It is clear that the duo that wrote and directed Goodnight Mommy (Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz) have something worthwhile to say here. Luckily, they say it in a manner that is thoroughly engaging. Their mastery of tone (an essential ingredient in any horror film) is evident in every frame, and the dramatic logic is worked out perfectly. When the film begins, we are experiencing the story from the perspective of the twin brothers.

“It starts out told from the children’s perspective, and we tried to be true to the children, and the way that children would see the world, and the things that they are interested in. In a child’s world, dreams and nightmares and fantasies are a lot more real, and part of the real world as they perceive it. For us, the first half of the film has more [of a] fairytale [perspective], and then when the perspective shifts to the mother character, that’s a more grown-up point of view, without any fairytales and no more shadows and light—just plain violence, which should feel more like a documentary film and not so much as a fantasy film…” -Severin Fiala (Interview Magazine)

The result is an atmospheric trip into a nightmare reality that is superior to any horror film that has been released in the last two years. Fiala and Franz’s film achieves this by concentrating on the visuals and the sound design while keeping the dialogue to a minimum. This seems to be one of the contributing factors to the film’s successful tonal design.

“We knew there was going to be almost no sound. I mean, we have a very good sound designer obviously and a very good composer—Olga Neuwirth, an Austrian composer, and she’s also based in New York. It was very funny when we showed the film to her: she would say, ‘This film doesn’t need any music.’ So we knew we wanted to make kind of a silent film that only has very precise tones. She was a little bit disappointed because she wanted to compose more music, and I think it ended up being only three or four parts where we used her music. The rest of it was a very delicate balance to not make it too loud. I dream of a film without any dialogue, so if we could have a scene and spare the dialogue, we would do that.” -Veronika Franz (Film Comment)

Like many of the best films, Goodnight Mommy feels like a dream (or a nightmare). What it doesn’t feel like is any other film that I have seen. Critics have a lazy habit of comparing films with earlier films. This might be because publicists like to promote films in this manner, but there are times when comparisons do a disservice to the film being discussed. Goodnight Mommy is such a film.

Critics are especially fond of comparing the film to Michael Haneke’s Funny Games (1997), which seems like an especially thoughtless comparison that ignores the goals of both films. Such comparison’s only focus on the shallowest of elements. Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz discussed the comparison in a number of interviews.

“What we have in common, I think, is the exactness we bring, that every aspect is carefully considered, and perhaps the austerity in style. Thematically, Haneke also deals with family and non-communication and his films often have this sense of confinement, which ours also does. But on the whole I find our film very different from his. That it got compared a lot to Funny Games really confounded us. To us, Funny Games is an anti-horror film, while ours is hopefully a pro-horror film, because we both love horror films. It’s the genre that can be best utilized to say something about society and its taboos.” -Severin Fiala (Exberliner)

While Funny Games has a distracting tendency to break the fourth wall in an audacious attempt to berate the audience for their interest in what is happening onscreen, Fiala and Franz pull the audience into the story without distraction.

“We don’t like that, actually. He’s very moralistic. And besides, it’s a completely different situation if two strangers are entering a house from the outside world, [instead of] two children dealing with their own mother. But maybe the connection is something about the precise coldness of our style.” -Veronika Franz (Film Comment)

Originality combined with Fiala and Franz’s artful execution makes Goodnight Mommy an absolutely essential viewing experience for horror fans. It is no wonder that it has been selected as the Austrian entry for ‘Best Foreign Language Film’ consideration at the 2016 Academy Awards. It would be nice to see a genre film in the running at the next Oscar ceremony, and one would be hard pressed to find a better film to represent the genre.

Still 1

The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

The Blu-ray disc is housed in a standard Blu-ray case with film related artwork that utilizes the artwork used for the American one sheet.

The animated menus employ footage from the film supported by music from the film.

Still 2

Picture Quality:

 4.5 of 5 Stars

 Martin Gshlacht’s 35mm cinematography is represented well in Anchor Bay’s brilliant 1080P transfer. Fine detail is beautifully evident throughout the film’s length, and there aren’t any noticeable digital anomalies to mar one’s enjoyment of the film. Contrast, color, brightness, and black levels are all perfectly rendered.

Still 3

Sound Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

The 5.1 German DTS HD-MA is without any noticeable blemishes. The mix is well conceived, and the sound design is perfectly represented (which is especially important in this feature).

Still 4

 Special Features:

3 of 5 Stars

A Conversation with Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz

Although this twelve minute conversation fails to delve deeply into the creation of Goodnight Mommy, Fiala and Franz do reveal a few interesting details about their work on the film, and it is a welcome addition to this disc.

Still 5

Final Words:

Goodnight Mommy is one of the best horror films of the last five years. It is engaging, relevant, and is masterfully executed. This Blu-ray transfer is a beautiful rendering of its 35mm source, and it is highly recommended.

American One Sheet

Review by: Devon Powell