Goodnight Mommy Fails as Both a Remake and Standalone Psychological Horror

Some movies just don’t need to be remade. Jaws, The Godfather, Goodfellas – these are just a few examples of movie that work every bit as well as they did upon release. Amongst the better horror movies of the 21st century, Austrian creepfest Goodnight Mommy wasn’t crying out for a remake either. Subtly unsettling, atmospheric, surreal, and its gut-wrenching twist put Goodnight Mommy high up on many critics’ lists. Arguably, the only reason for a remake is the belief that North American audiences won’t read subtitles. Hence, Amazon Prime gives us the remake of Goodnight Mommy starring Naomi Watts. Not surprisingly, the remake hasn’t generated much goodwill.

Goodnight Mommy a Brilliantly Unsettling Psychological Horror Movie

Austrian cinema isn’t really a force in the horror genre. But that didn’t stop directors Vernonika Franz and Severin Fiala from making one of the best horror movies of the 2010s. On the surface, Goodnight Mommy reads like any other creepy kid movie that Hollywood has churned out since The Bad Seed. Its story of a twin boys who believe that the heavily bandaged woman who has returned to their home isn’t their real mother sounds like a standard North American psychological thriller. Yet the filmmakers’ story wraps its themes of guilt and trauma around a well-crafted mystery. Like M. Night Shyalaman’s The Sixth Sense, you’ll want to re-visit the movie to see if its twists holds up to scrutiny. It does. Franz and Fiala scatter hints throughout the movie that make a second viewing very rewarding.

This is a quiet study in terror that leans on atmosphere rather than loud sounds or jumps.

Aside from its Austrian dialogue, Goodnight Mommy does something else that many Hollywood horror movies neglect. Specifically, Franz and Fiala show a great deal of restraint in their filmmaking. This is a quiet study in terror that leans on atmosphere rather than loud sounds or jumps. While there’s disturbing scenes the filmmakers never film them in a way that exploits the violence on screen. Goodnight Mommy allows the horror of what’s unfolding to drive its emotional impact. Throw in some surreal nightmare imagery here and there and this Austrian psychological horror movie is a case study in slow-building tension. Its final scene and closing moments are both horrifying and heartbreaking.

Goodnight Mommy Remake Never Establishes Why It Needs to Exist

Actress Naomi Watts must be a big fan of international cinema. The Amazon Prime Goodnight Mommy remake marks her third starring role in a Western remake of foreign horror movies. To date, Watts has starred in J-horror remake The Ring and Michael Haneke’s remake of his own Austrian thriller Funny Games. Unfortunately, Watts’ luck with remakes runs out with director Matt Sobel and writer Kyle Warren’s re-imagining of the modern classic. And the 2022 psychological thriller isn’t so much a re-interpretation as it is a bland paraphrasing. That is, Sobel and Warren incorporate the same premise and follow much of the story beat for beat. Some changes are superficial – revisions intended to make this version more accessible to North American viewers. Other changes seem to exist to reduce the psychological discomfort the original movie elicited.

And the 2022 psychological thriller isn’t so much a re-interpretation as it is a bland paraphrasing.

Yes, this Goodnight Mommy removes some of the disturbing scenes as though North American audiences won’t be able to handle them. Unfortunately, Sobel struggles to craft the same atmosphere and tension from the material. In addition, the remake cuts out the handful of surreal nightmare scenes, which leaves a paucity of scares. Watts gives powerful performance and she’s consistently the best part of the remake. However, Warren only subtracts things from the story – his screenplay doesn’t add anything or envision its own meaning. Instead, the remake feels like the exact same movie recreated in English that’s a bit louder and less scary and disturbing.

Goodnight Mommy Remake Fails as Remake and Standalone Horror Movie

No one was asking for a Goodnight Mommy remake. And director Matt Sobel and Amazon Prime do absolutely nothing to disavow us of the its superfluousness. As a remake, it follows the Austrian original’s premise and basic plot beats and when it diverges the creative choices feel questionable. Sobel waters down the original’s more overt horror while also excising Franz and Fiala’s surrealist tendencies. Yet even as a standalone horror movie this Goodnight Mommy feels like a bland, but watchable, exercise. And that’s something that runs completely counter to the original’s emotional power.

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I am a Criminology professor in Canada but I've always had a passion for horror films. Over the years I've slowly begun incorporating my interest in the horror genre into my research. After years of saying I wanted to write more about horror I have finally decided to create my own blog where I can share some of my passion and insights into the films I love.

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