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Goodnight Mommy review: Introducing the generic version

Naomi Watts in Goodnight Mommy.
Naomi Watts in Goodnight Mommy. Pic credit: Amazon Studios

Goodnight Mommy sees Naomi Watts as Mother, a single mother investing her energy into two sons– Elias (Cameron Crovetti) and Lucas (Nicholas Crovetti)–following a facial procedure.

The film presents the narrative from the perspective of the children as they return to their mom who now wears a medical mask over her face for undisclosed reasons.

Nothing is concretely communicated except “mommy needed a tune-up.”

And as the two sons, Elias and Lucas, get reacquainted with Mother, things about her just seem different.

She is more aggressive, short-tempered, and she refuses to engage in the motherly activities she used to do for them.

The optics make Mother seem like an actress going through a midlife crisis and someone wanting to be done with their children. But just like the 2014 Austrian movie this was based on, there are far more troubling aspects hiding underneath the family dynamic.

A less disturbing vision

The remake takes a different direction than the original film. The 2022 Goodnight Mommy plays up the antagonist angle of Mother.

Naomi Watts does a fantastic job of creating a parent who is somewhat neglectful and abusive. Her unkind nature to her children is not as understated as it is in the 2014 version. And in some ways it takes away from the disturbing impact that first movie possessed.

Susanne West managed to create a sense of vulnerability in her mistreatment of the boys. We knew she was behaving inappropriately but there was a sense that she was a broken woman doing her very best. Naomi Watts is just downright unlikable throughout Goodnight Mommy 2022 and it removes the anxiety when the film enters the back half.

Naomi Watts still manages to pull out an enthralling performance and chews up the screen with her role of Mother. The writing might not lend her the same complexities as West received but she gives the character everything .

Naomi Watts, Cameron Crovetti, and Nicholas Crovetti from Goodnight Mommy
Naomi Watts, Cameron Crovetti, and Nicholas Crovetti from Goodnight Mommy. Pic credit: Amazon Studios

The biggest aspect that makes Goodnight Mommy 2022 work less is the choice to make this is a thriller instead of a slow burn horror drama.

Goodnight Mommy 2014 took its time and would allow the relationship between the brothers to kidnap the narrative . The film deliberately spent long moments with the boys as they wandered around doing stupid kid activities. At one point in the original, Lucas and Elias spend minutes together just burping at each other in a chair.

The photography was even more interesting with beautiful farming and visual cues that foreshadowed certain plot twists towards the ending.

The remake is not as subtle and stays at high tension from the halfway point and onward. The filmmakers heightened the fear with the role of Mother, almost as if to make the viewers scared of her presence. And instead of spending long moments building the relationship with the brothers, we stay with them at survival mode through most of the film.

The themes of grieving changes remain in the remake. The core of the story clearly works on an emotional level, no matter how the filmmakers are adapting the elements.

Just like the original, the family is broken and Mother is separated from Lucas and Elias’ father. The family has experienced some form of tragedy. The horror of Goodnight Mommy is individual change and the grief that comes with acknowledging that someone or something may never be as we remembered them again.

This thematic idea is universally relatable because tragedy and trauma does not discriminate. And horror is a tremendous genre to explore grief and trauma. The issue is the fact Goodnight Mommy 2022 dilutes the horrific finale that made the 2014 film a breakout.

Making a safer version of Goodnight Mommy is fine but then something needs to be added to increase the emotional drama. And sadly, nothing creatively was given to make up for this tamer vision.

It’s still an enjoyable watch and contains a ruthless performance by Naomi Watts. The child actors do a solid job in this film as well— and finding young talent that can invoke a great performance should always be commended.

Should you watch Goodnight Mommy on Prime Video?

Goodnight Mommy maintains the emotional backbone and themes of the original. It even possesses another strong performance by Naomi Watts.

But all the elements that made the 2014 movie a disturbing and unforgettable horror film have been removed for American audiences. Kind of like medicine, the generic version might be effective but it’s nothing compared to the name brand. And Goodnight Mommy 2022 is the generic version of a more impactful product.

If viewers must see the new one, they can do far worse. But for now, stick to the original.

Readers seeking more reviews can read our coverage of films such as Beast and Bodies Bodies Bodies over on the Monsters & Critics review page.

Goodnight Mommy is now streaming on Prime Video.