Goodnight Mommy Review: This Forgettable Remake Starring Naomi Watts Treads Familiar Water

It is probably easy to argue that the 2014 Austrian film "Goodnight Mommy" helped to usher in the existence of "elevated horror" into the mainstream. Upon its release, it garnered almost near-universal acclaim for its subversion of horror conventions and its omnipresent feeling of dread. How you feel about the elevated horror label will likely affect whether you enjoy Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala's feature debut, and I've certainly heard both passionate defenses and takedowns of the movie over the years for this very reason.

Despite this division, it is likely that both elevated horror fans and detractors won't find much to enjoy in Matt Sobel's English-language remake, now streaming on Prime Video. Twin brothers Elias and Lukas (Cameron and Nicholas Crovetti) are dropped off at a posh cabin in the woods to visit their actress mother (Naomi Watts). She recently had cosmetic surgery, her face mostly obscured through bandages. However, she acts more volatile and angry towards her sons than normal, making them wonder if the woman underneath the bandages is an imposter.

Even if you are unfamiliar with the original story, the "Goodnight Mommy" remake sticks far too close to the original. It's a predictable movie that relies too heavily on the structure of its predecessor, only deciding to carve its own identity in the last ten minutes or so of the film. However, most viewers will likely already be mentally checked out by that point.

You'll learn to love me someday

The three central performers, the Crovetti twins and Watts, turn in some very strange roles in this film. Watts delivers most of her lines as if she's reading them for the first time, although some instances can be more easily argued as purposeful. It also doesn't help that the lines in question play so heavily into the evil mother trope that she immediately comes across as awkward and suspicious. There is little mystery to her character, which makes the final third act feel that much stranger.

As for the Crovettis, who were previously seen as Nicole Kidman's bratty kids in "Big Little Lies," they both deliver eerie performances that are either intentionally or unintentionally weird. The original film's Elias and Lukas were around nine years old, a few years younger than the ages of the real-life twins. However, both of the twins in this movie act like they are nine years old despite clearly being older than that. It's hard to gauge whether this is a deliberate artistic choice or just awkward direction. Perhaps the truth lies somewhere in the middle, but nevertheless, it is a bit distracting.

A real grab-bag of twists

As previously stated, "Goodnight Mommy" largely stays true to the original film's story and plot beats. Even the original's third-act twist is implemented into this remake, and it makes no effort to hide it throughout.

That being said, what has been altered from the original are really strange. Some of the changes were pretty insignificant and don't add much change to the story, such as the Red Cross volunteers from the original now being rural police officers. However, the ending is where it kind of all falls off the rails. Sure, it is obvious that there is something wrong with the twins, but the way the reveal is changed in the remake feels needlessly topical and somewhat cruel.

It makes even less sense considering the fate of one of the twins from the original is directly referenced and framed as a significant plot detail. While it is somewhat nice that the film isn't a total beat-for-beat remake, the changes that were made to the story ultimately come too late, leaving audiences scratching their heads rather than be enraptured with the story.

All of this being said, it's likely that you will forget about this boring remake shortly after the credits roll. "Goodnight Mommy" isn't a downright horrible movie, but it certainly won't stick with you. Well, maybe the ending will, but that's not a good thing.

/Film rating: 4.5 out of 10