Typically when I’m searching for the next great horror movie to watch I don’t typically think to myself “I wonder if Austria has produced any horror movies worth checking out this year….” Well to be fair I don’t think that for any genre of movie really. Luckily my wife, who doesn’t watch horror movies at all, somehow always finds the best movies to recommend to me. I think she’s secretly employed by a movie studio as she tells me about a movie, shows me the trailer, asks me when I’m going to watch it then tells me to blog about it…..In fact I’m 100% convinced she works for the movie studios. It was her that said “You should check out this movie called the Babadook…” and it was her that said “Have you heard of Goodnight Mommy?” I’m just going to stop checking out the top 10 lists I normally read to see which movie to watch next and just ask her what the next great horror movie is. She convinced myself, her brother and his girlfriend to all watch it, and I don’t think any of us were disappointed.
Basically, Canada and USA you need to step it up, Australia and Austria are currently beating you out for the best horror movies.
The Main Characters
The story revolves around a pair of twins who’s mother has just returned home after undergoing drastic cosmetic surgery. Her entire face is wrapped in bandages and she is seems to be in a constant angry mood which leads the twins to believe she isn’t their real mother. This premise introduced one of the most loving and yet terrifying relationships between two characters. The brothers who are without any other parent figure begin to learn how to take care of one another and offer each other comfort you don’t often see in brothers once they start getting older. When Elias is struck by his mother and crawls into bed crying you see Lucas sitting over him stroking his hair and comforting him. When the mother ignores Lucas, Elias makes sure that he’s taken care of by sharing his food and drinks. During this film I thought how great this relationship was….until the climax when the brother’s begin interrogating the mother to see what she’s done with the real one and Lucas suddenly takes on a dark turn and Elias begins becoming more and more submissive. Elias becomes torn, and it looks absolutely genuine, as he begins to wonder if maybe she is their real mother yet he refuses to turn on his brother. Lucas’ face remains expressionless during these horrifying scenes and Elias begins breaking down further and further and as I said earlier it appeared genuine. I didn’t see two actors taking direction from a director on how to emote, I saw two young boys – one of them cold and one of them emotionally torn. Anyone who grew up with siblings can relate to these characters somewhat as there were no doubt times when you and your sibling(s) felt united against your parents for some reason or another, and you’ve also been in situations when you felt a loyalty to your parents that would result in turning against your sibling(s). Despite them being children (my least favourite characters in horror movies) they were the most interesting part of the entire movie and were more relatable than any character I’ve seen in a horror movie for a long time.
Before anyone groans at me for getting pretentious and discuss a film’s cinematography let me explain why I’m even bringing it up. Normally I only talk about a film’s cinematography with my brother who like me took a film class because no one ever cares what it adds to a film. But in this case I beg you to take notice to it as it almost takes on a life of its own and contributes so much to the story. The director chose a house that was isolated in the countryside that was massive on the inside. As a result what you see is a spacious house with endless amounts of negative space surrounded by fields of farmland that go as far as the eye can see. This capture’s the isolation of the twins when they feel trapped in the house by their mother (who does actually trap them when she starts locking them in their room and the house). The house is cold, and always quiet. Much like their mother. The twins however are always in close proximity to one another despite the large amounts of space. They bathe together, they sit in the same hanging chair, they even sleep in bunk beds. When you see the house on it’s own it’s always large and empty and yet anytime the twins are together the director takes close shots, and places them in the smallest quarters. Aside from the visuals adding to the story it’s also just a pretty movie that you can’t look away from.
Throughout this film you felt the tension building and building. Normally I’ll argue that horror director’s rush the tension and don’t let the audience absorb everything OR they draw it out too long and end up losing the audience’s interest. The tension build up in this was long, I won’t lie about that. But the thing is it’s such a steady build and eventually you start wondering who the real villain is. The twin’s or the mother and it’s not until the final moments of the movie that you discover the truth of everything (which I won’t spoil since this is still a fairly new movie). But the thing that to me was the most terrifying was the climax when the twin’s finally decide to confront their mother and tie her down. What ensues is some pretty awful violence but not over the top violence. What I mean by this is it isn’t, for lack of a better term, “torture porn”. I am quite open about my hatred of this genre, and how their entire purpose is to try and gross out audiences without using any actual techniques to scare them. I was worried this would turn into a film like this but it never really did. At no point did I have to turn or cringe away, I was horrified yes but never grossed out. The thing that was the scariest about this imagining what it would be like if you were in this situation. Lucas was quite adamant about pushing their interrogation techniques whereas Elias was always quick to stop and treat their mother’s wounds. So to be in a constant state of “they’re going to kill me” then “they’re going to free me” would understandably mess with a person’s heart and willpower. Even as a viewer I kept checking how much longer I had in the movie because I couldn’t handle the tension. The climax pays off huge and definitely makes the long drawn out horror worth it.
Anyone who hates twists being necessary in horror films nowadays can thank M. Night Shamalan and The 6th Sense for making this a standard. As a result nearly every horror movie I watch now HAS to have a twist. Sometimes it works out great (The Last Exorcism, Cabin In The Woods) and sometimes it’s outright horrible (Annabelle). This unfortunately results in me watching the trailer and immediately trying to guess what the twist is. Anyone who’s watched the IT Crowd can understand how annoying this is. “This takes place in the past. No wait, this isn’t Earth. It’s all a dream. They’re really robots. She’s really a man!”. Towards the end of the film I felt pretty convinced that I knew what the twist was (but I will give credit where it’s due, my wife is the one who originally predicted this I had an entirely different prediction going into the movie). But the thing is it was executed so well that you didn’t care if you saw it coming. The movie didn’t reveal the twist and pat itself on the back for being clever despite the fact that it withheld crucial evidence that we needed to figure out the twist like most horror movies do. It basically leads the viewer to this conclusion but it isn’t what the twist is, rather how it’s revealed and what happens as a result that’s the most interesting. I won’t say anymore since I don’t want to spoil anything, but even knowing that the twist exists won’t ruin the movie. You’ll still appreciate every bit of this movie.
If you don’t mind having to read subtitles in a movie then you will 100% love this movie. It doesn’t go over the top with violence or grossing you out like most North American horror movies. The visuals are amazing, the tension is built perfectly and the ending is horrifying. I didn’t love it as much as I loved The Babadook but it’s still one of the better horror movies of the past few years. I’ll always argue that if you can create good horror with minimal amounts of blood and gore then you know how to do it right. This met that criteria perfectly. So if you love horror, go see it. If you kind of like horror, go see it. If you don’t like horror, go see it and then take a nap during the final 30 minutes. Basically, GO SEE IT!