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Film / Goodnight Mommy

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Goodnight Mommy (original title of Ich seh, Ich seh) is a 2014 Austrian Psychological Horror movie directed by Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz.

Elias and Lukas are twin boys who enjoy roughhousing with each other. The mother returns home with her face bandaged. Her personality has changed. She avoids sunlight, insists on absolute quiet, loses her temper easily, and will only acknowledge Elias, ignoring Lukas. The boys discuss the possibility that whatever returned home was not their mother, compounded by finding pictures of their mother with a look-alike. They hatch a plan to trap the impostor, and force her to reveal where their real mother is.

An American remake produced by Amazon Studios was released on September 16, 2022, with Matt Sobel as the director and Naomi Watts as the mother. (Fiala and Franz are credited as executive producers.)

This film exhibits the following tropes:

  • Abusive Offspring: Elias and Lukas although not Lukas, who is dead tie their mother up, glue her lips shut and then cut them open...
  • Abusive Parents: On the other hand, their mother isn't exactly an innocent victim. Upon returning home, she pointedly ignores Lukas and is hostile and snappish towards Elias, even physically abusing him when she becomes frustrated by his suspicions that she's an impostor. She comes to show remorse once her behavior comes back to bite her.
  • Adults Are Useless: The sexton. The priest. The Red Cross volunteers. The mother.
  • And I Must Scream: The mother gets tied to her own bed. She's unable to move or talk for the last act of the movie.
  • Angsty Surviving Twin: Elias began hallucinating Lukas after the accident that took his life.
  • Bandaged Face: The twins' mother returns with white bandages across her face, and she does not remove them in front of the children until late in the film.
  • Beetle Maniac: Elias keeps a terrarium full of cockroaches he has found around the house. He's greatly distressed when his mother begins to kill them partway through the film.
  • Big Brother Instinct: When their mother loses her temper with Elias and pins him to the bed in a rage, Lukas, who is on the top bunk, yells at her to let him go.
  • Building of Adventure: The main action happens inside the family home.
  • Burping Contest: The twins engage in one of these with each other early on.
  • Chained to a Bed: In her sleep, the boys tie the mother to her bed where she remains for most of the third act.
  • Complete-the-Quote Title: The original title is Ich seh Ich seh, which translates roughly to "I see, I see." This phrase is a reference to a German/Austrian version of "I spy with my little eye," which proceeds instead as "Ich seh, Ich seh, was du nicht siehst" – "I see, I see, what you don't see."
  • Creepy Children Singing: When the kids sing that lullaby song.
  • Creepy Twins: Lukas and Elias.
  • Curtain Camouflage: The boys try to hide behind the living room curtains but the mother quickly picks up on it.
  • Daydream Surprise: Elias has two nightmares which are portrayed as real until the boy wakes up.
  • Dead All Along: Lukas died in an accident before the events of the film.
  • Demonic Head Shake: During one particular Nightmare Sequence, Elias' mother strips down in the woods and starts spasming uncontrollably.
  • Disappeared Dad: The twins' father is never seen, in person or pictures, or even given a name. The only mention of him at all is the mother mentioning a divorce.
  • Doting Parent: It seems the mother was this before the events of the film, which is at least partially why the twins are so confused and upset by her sudden change in attitude towards them.
  • The Ending Changes Everything: The ending of the film recontextualizes the earlier odd and cruel behavior of the mother. The reason why she refuses to acknowledge her other son is because he isn't really there. Her abuse of Elias is most likely an unfortunate reaction to the trauma and stress of losing her son, the surgery, plus Elias' unnerving behavior and refusal to accept that Lukas is dead, something she basically says herself to the priest. It may also lead the audience to question whether certain other things are real, such as the crevice filled with human bones.
  • "Everybody Dies" Ending: By the end of the film, two of the three named characters are confirmed dead, and the third is strongly implied to have been killed as well.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: The Mother or her ghost can be seen walking out of the house at the end when it's surrounded by firefighters.
  • Furniture Blockade: At one point the boys block the entrance to their room by placing a table with a pile of books underneath the handle.
  • Gainax Ending: Either Elias survived the fire and is now imagining the ghosts of Lukas and his mother with him, or he died in the fire and the three of them are together again.
  • Happy Rain: At one point the twins run around and play outside together during a hail storm.
  • Hope Spot:
    • The mother manages to get the tape gag off of her mouth and calls for help... right after the Red Cross volunteers have left.
    • Later, when released to clean the bed, she throws the quilt over Elias and runs for an open doorway... only to find a tripwire and hit her head.
  • The Hunter Becomes the Hunted: First it's the mother locking the boys into their room. Then they turn the table and chain her to the bed.
  • Imaginary Friend: Elias is suffering from some form of PTSD brought on by Lukas's untimely death and still experiences him as very much alive.
  • Instant Waking Skills: The boys abruptly open their eyes and are wide awake immediately after having a nightmare.
  • Ironic Echo: The boys' masks.
  • Kindhearted Cat Lover: The boys find a sick/hurt cat trapped in the cemetery and take it home to try and nurse it back to health. It doesn't end well.
  • Lost in the Maize: Subverted, Elias appears to be this at the beginning of the film...until his brother playfully ambushes him.
  • Meaningful Background Event: In the long shot of the house when it was burning down, we see the mother in a white dress in the background exiting to the left of the screen.
  • Minimalist Cast: The plot centers around three main characters.
  • Missed Him by That Much: The Red Cross volunteers almost reach the mother's bedroom before getting interrupted by the boys. As soon as the door is closed behind them, the mother starts screaming.
  • Mutilation Interrogation: The mother gets tied to her own bed where the twins ask her where their real mother is. She's unable to convince them that she is their real mother and gets tortured for it.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: Probably to enhance the creepiness factor, the trailer cuts unrelated scenes together to make it look like the mother chewed on the cockroach that entered her mouth. In the film she chewed on crackers.
  • No Brows: The mother has no eyebrows after her plastic surgery which adds to her creepiness.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The whole first half of the film consists of mostly silent wide shots of the countryside, the house, the living room, etc. Nothing is obviously amiss, but something just ain't right.
  • Oktoberfest: The opening scene with footage of a traditional children choir plays right into this.
  • Orifice Invasion: ...or cockroach to be more accurate...
  • Parental Neglect: Both twins are left to their own devices most of the time, and Lucas is outright ignored.
  • Parents as People: Despite her at times abusive and neglectful behaviour, the mother does seem to care about Elias (and Lucas, but that's more complicated) and tries to make amends, but it seems dealing with the stress of a divorce, and the Death of a Child , all while recovering from what appears to be a pretty major operation, combined with her son's odd behaviour has been pushing her over the edge .
  • Plastic Bitch: The mother has had a bump removed from her nose which leads her twin sons to become convinced that she's been replaced, especially as she returns from the surgery cold, distant, and aggressive, and she won't show them what's under the bandages. It makes a lot more sense once you find out that Lukas is Dead All Along and she's responding to the stress of losing him while Elias pretends he's still alive.
  • Protagonist Journey to Villain: By the end of the story, Elias is a deranged little boy that killed his own mother and possibly himself.
  • Psychological Projection: Elias's belief that a sinister Doppelgänger has replaced his mom stems from his denial that his brother is just a hallucination.
  • Rewatch Bonus: A lot of the film makes more sense once you know the ending, assuming you don't figure it out before then. Like why everyone ignores Lukas, and why Elias is so fixated on death.
  • Rule of Symbolism: The roaches, skulls, and whatever went on with the cat are indicative of Elias' obsession with death. He puts the cat in a sort of suspended animation, or as close as he can come to it, as he's subconsciously done with Lukas.
  • Smash to Black: When the mother slips and hits her head on the ground, the scene cuts to black.
  • Solar-Powered Magnifying Glass: Elias is shown burning holes on the wall using a magnifying glass. Later, he uses it to burn the mother's face.
  • Symbolic Glass House: The boys and their mother live in a house with vast windows in the woods, when they're dealing with an unexpected death and becoming convinced their mother has been replaced. It gets Played for Drama when the mother almost breaks free at one point to alert the Red Cross representatives who are visible from the window.
  • There Are No Therapists: It's implied that Elias' troubles are made worse by the neglect of others. He has a dad who never bothers calling, texting or visiting his traumatised son. The mother could easily afford to get her son professional help but doesn't.
  • Together in Death: One interpretation of the final scene with Elias, Lukas and the mother is that the mother and Elias both die in the fire and the three are happily united in death.
  • The Tooth Hurts: Near the end of the film, the twins remove one of the mother's teeth in an effort to get her to tell them where their real mother is.
  • Trip Trap: The boys trip the mother with a wire across the doorway.
  • The Un-Favourite: Lukas appears to be this for most of the film. In reality, it's because he's Dead All Along.
  • Unnamed Parent: Elias and Lukas's mother is never named; even the film's credits list her as "Mother". Justified, since the questioning of her true identity drives the plot.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Elias is actually undergoing a Sanity Slippage, which is why he distrusts his mother and believes his brother is still alive.
  • Weakened by the Light: Part of the mother's medical condition is that the surgery has left her skin sensitive to the sun.
  • Where I Was Born and Razed: This is how Elias ultimately kills the mother, and possibly himself.
  • You Are Grounded!: Elias gets grounded by his mother which makes him cry in his bed.
  • Your Makeup Is Running: The mother's make up is all smudged from crying and rain when the minister returns the two boys.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Elias. He believes that his story is the case in which a monster pretends to be his mother, when the reality is that she is his real mother.