Scary movies nowadays are now suddenly becoming more and more clever.
A high-toned German-language thriller co-written and co-directed by Austrian filmmakers Veronika Franza and Severin Fiala, Goodnight Mommy is another addition to such art house hits like The Babadook and It Follows. The story revolves around the eerie twin brothers Lukas and Elias (played by real-life brothers Lukas and Elias Schwarz).
But what really freaks us out is their mother (Susanne Wuest), whom they have come to believe is an impostor. Having been reconstructed through plastic surgery, Mommy’s face is wrapped in bandage for the most part of the film.
SPOILER ALERT: The following post discusses the ending of the film Goodnight Mommy
The movie doesn’t use clichéd supernatural gobbledygook, jump scares, and much slasher-movie violence. What replaces those horror movie essentials is a plot twist that is either blindingly obvious or startlingly unanticipated, depending on your sensitivity for such things. Despite having the same ending twist as The Sixth Sense, the turn of events is still effective and unexpected. The movie will definitely trip all sorts of alarm bells for anyone who is up for real horror.
So what’s this brilliant twist? Elias is actually traumatized because of the accident that killed Lukas. Yes, that child is actually already dead. The mother survived, along with Elias, but was disfigured by the unfortunate event. The only reason Elias can see Lukas is because he is unable to accept his brother’s death.
Here’s how and why the twist works to such an extent:
The film hints that something is wrong when the brothers first showed up.
- During meals, the mother sometimes ignores Lukas and sometimes refuses to set a place for him, as if she’s punishing the child for some unknown reason.
- The way the twins communicate with their mother is even weirder. Whenever Lukas has something to say, he whispers in his brother’s ear, and Elias speaks on his behalf.
- Elias calls out his brother’s name on more than one occasion, but he doesn’t get a response.
- Another instance is when Elias is shown staring at a pond, where Lukas is assumed to have submerged himself for an incredibly long amount of time. Despite having bubbles rise to the surface, no boy emerged.
Then it becomes clear to us that he’s dead. The mother isn’t punishing him but denying his existence. That explains the way she acts like her son ceases to exist. So what took us so long to notice the plot twist?
It appears that misdirection is not only being used by magicians
The film shows that it is not Elias and Lukas who are acting suspiciously, it’s their mother. Given that the boys have discovered a photo album with an old picture of their mom sitting beside a woman who could be her twin, a theory came up—the woman, whose face is heavily bandaged, may be an impostor. The theory seems reasonable, considering that she does weird things like walking into the woods naked in the middle of the night.
However, there are some people who are going to stare at a magician’s left hand no matter what he does to draw your attention to his right. The “sleight of hand” trick doesn’t work if you’re looking for it though. Those who figured out the film’s bait-and-switch trick won’t feel the thrill the elaborate twist gives the viewers.