Is this horror movie remake better than the shocking original?
Movie remakes are rarely as good as the originals, especially within the horror genre. You need only consider the poor remakes of Psycho, The Fog, and Flatliners as evidence of this.
Of course, there are exceptions. Let Me In, Matt Reeves’ 2010 remake of Tomas Alfredson’s vampire tale Let The Right One In, was actually a pretty good movie as the director managed to retain the tense and soulful atmosphere of the eerie original. Philip Kaufman’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers, which was released in 1978, is also a decent remake and is arguably scarier (and all-around better) than Don Siegel’s 1956 communist allegory.
Why am I talking about remakes? Well, if you aren’t already aware, Matt Sobel’s Goodnight Mommy, which is currently streaming on Prime Video in some territories, is a remake of a 2014 Austrian film of the same name.
Both movies are similar in plotline, with a focus on twin brothers Elias and Lukas who pay a visit to their actress mother, only to discover that she isn’t quite the person that she used to be. After their father drops them off at her home, the boys are initially surprised at their mother’s appearance as she is wearing a medical mask that covers the entirety of her face.
Their mother tells them she has just had cosmetic surgery, hence her masked face, but the boys have more to worry about than her outward appearance. Where once their mother was warm and caring, she is now cold and distant and her behaviour is borderline aggressive.
It’s because of these personality changes that the boys begin to think the woman behind the mask is an imposter. And therein lies the movie’s central mystery. Are they living with their mother? Or is the person they are sharing a house with somebody else entirely?
If you have seen the original movie, you will already know the answer. As I said, this 2022 remake has a similar plot. However, the two movies aren’t exactly the same as Sobel’s movie is different in key areas.
Does this mean it’s a bad remake? Well, it depends on your point of view. It’s certainly not as bad as the movies I mentioned at the start of this review as this movie benefits from some creative direction and convincing performances from its talented cast, with special mention to Cameron and Nicholas Crovetti who play the twin boys. However, it’s not as shocking as Alfredson’s original and if you are familiar with his movie, you may be disappointed by the changes Sobel has made.
In the 2014 movie, the mother is far more menacing than the one played by Naomi Watts in the remake. She is cruel, elusive, and almost robotic in nature, and she never confirms to the boys whether or not she is their actual mother. Watts’ version of the mother is a little more human and she insists she is the boys’ mum when Elias raises his suspicions. She still acts oddly but she’s not as mysterious as the woman in Alfredson’s film.
In both movies, the boys gather evidence in their bid to find out the truth about the masked woman. When they decide they are living with a complete stranger, they retaliate against her. In the original movie, the twins commit acts of violence against the woman in scenes that are sometimes quite sickening. In the remake, Watts’ mother has a far better time of things as, aside from a cold bucket of water, the boys don’t torture her in quite the same way.
These changes are either a good or a bad thing, depending on your tolerance for horror. If you’re put off by distressing scenes of violence, especially those which are instigated by children, you may be glad that the remake is far softer than Alfredson’s movie. But as it was the violence that gave that movie its visceral power, you may be less pleased with the remake if you wanted something as chillingly grim as the original.
Sobel’s movie is different in other ways too. It’s not as tense as the 2014 movie and the air of mystery is muted by one too many clues that point to the twist ending. Alfredson’s movie was ambiguous in nature and we never got to find out the movie’s secrets until the very end. English-language remakes have often been accused of dumbing down foreign-language movies for western audiences, and this accusation can be fired at this remake. This doesn’t mean this movie is worthless but as it’s not as unnerving or as intelligent as the movie that came before it, you won’t get quite the same experience as you did if you saw the previous title.
Of course, if you have never seen the 2014 version of Goodnight Mommy, you will have nothing to compare the remake to, and that might be a good thing. You will have no reason to complain about the change in tone and the diluted scenes between the boys and their mother, and you should enjoy the various twists and turns that are woven into the narrative.
So, let’s circle back to our question: Is this a bad horror remake? I don’t think so as there is a lot of creative talent on display, both in front of and behind the camera. You might have reason to complain if you have seen Alfredson’s movie but I imagine your biggest concerns will be to do with the retelling of the plot rather than the movie’s artistry.
If you don’t have Alfredson’s movie as a point of reference, you may be more tolerant of Sobel’s remake. I would still urge you to see the 2014 movie for a better experience but if you’re averse to subtitled movies or scenes of extreme horror, you will be pleased to know that this isn’t as wretched as some of the remakes that you may have seen before.
Read More: Goodnight Mommy (2022) Ending Explained