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Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Goodnight Mommy, or: Double, Double, Toil and Trouble

Even though the worst offenses in horror are historically committed by masked serial killers, sadomasochistic demons, and/or possessed toys, I’m most easily disturbed by the creepy children of horror. Most likely because horror is very effective when it comes to amplifying the uncanny in everyday situations, and children are already rather confusing and terrifying to me. If it worked for The Babadook, surely it can work for twins in a pastoral Austrian setting?

The Film:

Goodnight Mommy

The Premise:

As a woman recovers from facial surgery, her twin boys begin to believe the face under the bandages isn’t really their mother.

The Ramble:

Elias and Lukas are identical twin brothers living in a beautiful but isolated home in the countryside. Though initially relieved when their mother, a reasonably successful TV actress, returns home after major cosmetic surgery, it’s not long before the twins become suspicious. Their mother, whose face must remain bandaged, insists all of the blinds remain closed as she limits her exposure to sunlight. Becoming fixated on cleanliness and quiet, Mother commands that the boys leaver her in peace and play outside only. Holding an undisclosed grievance against Lukas, Mother speaks to Elias but not to his brother.

Elias and Lukas, twin blonde boys, hover in the doorway of their mother's room. Their clothes are dirty and expressions somber but curious.

Despite Mother’s dedication to cleanliness, there are creatures lurking around, including the masses of cockroaches the twins collect in a glass enclosure. If you watch this film, you’re going to spend a lot of time looking at cockroaches, FYI.

After the boys find a cat in…uh, pretty much a catacomb, they take the cat in to help it recover. When the cat ends up dead, they are convinced their mother had something to do with it. Or, rather, they are convinced the impostor pretending to be their mother had a hand in all of this. Mother’s definitely doing little to evoke sympathy as she’s cold during interactions with her boys and quick to anger.

A woman, face wrapped in bandages, faces her son in a dimly lit living room.

Other unsettling clues emerge when the boys find old pictures of their mother posing with a woman who is seemingly her double, and when they find an online listing of their house for sale. Escaping the house to seek help, the boys attempt to explain the situation to a priest in a nearby town. Perhaps not surprisingly, the priest believes the twins’ mother over the boys’ seemingly exaggerated tale.

Determining that they must take matters into their own hands, Elias and Lukas capture the impostor with bandages and refuse to let her move until she reveals the truth. And the twins seem to have quite the knack for psychological (and physical) torture…

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

It’s on me for choosing a slow burn film and then not particularly feeling like watching a slow burn when it came to viewing time. The film’s conclusion is really disturbingly dark and effective, and I appreciate its willingness to take things to extremes when the time is right. However, some of the subtle efforts to build tension fell a bit flat for me, and I spent quite a bit of the first two-thirds waiting for something to happen. I can see why The Babadook overshadowed this one, honestly (same year of release!).

Because so much of the film is from the twins’ perspective, finally getting some insight into their mother’s behavior is a major turning point in the film. Maybe not surprising as movie twins are almost always up to no good, but Elias and Lukas get so disturbing so fast.

Though much more of a psychological horror than slasher, there are some pretty upsetting moments throughout with bugs, burning, and the use of adhesives. Lots of visual interest in mirrors and doubling does set up questions about identity, reality, and the ways appearances can be used to hide the truth in plain sight. The ways in which grief can be all-consuming becomes increasingly apparent throughout the film in highly spoiler-y ways.

I don’t regret watching this one at all, but I am at least 10x more afraid of twins than before.

Would my blog wife keep this one safe and snug with its cockroach pals or burn it to a crisp with a magnifying glass? Find out in her review!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Little Boxes, or: I Lived Ironically in the Suburbs Before It Was Cool

May has been rechristened Melanie Lynskey Month.  After unintentionally watching I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore (IDFAHITWA) during the same weekend, my blog partner-in-crime and I are obsessed.  I dare you not to feel deep love and admiration after witnessing the beauty of Ms. Lynskey having an existential meltdown in front of children, aggressively destroying lawn art, and dreaming of a world where people stop acting like assholes.

Our first feature this month is Christa’s pick in which no wicker lawn animals were harmed.

The Film:

Little Boxes

Where to Watch:

Netflix (US)

The Uncondensed Version:

Our girl Melanie plays the role of Gina, hipster Brooklyn photographer who moves to the suburbs of Washington state with her hipster Brooklyn husband and son.  Though she has just accepted a tenure-track position in a college art department and the family is looking forward to more stability, they are nevertheless sad to leave behind their friends and the cool artsy vibe.

To their amazement, the same amount of money that carved out a small Brooklyn apartment gives the family a much bigger 2-story house in the suburbs.  However, they are in for some culture shocks as suburban living means navigating some oddly specific rules like children always calling adults Mr. or Mrs. (which really isn’t that odd to me, and if I ran into any of my primary school teachers, I would cringe if they insisted I call them by their first name).

All 3 members of the family have their own obstacles to tackle.  Gina’s husband Mack is a writer who is procrastinating on his latest book by writing food magazine articles.  He finds himself becoming a something of a local celebrity for being a published author with an agent and, more sinisterly, being commodified as quite possibly the only black person in town.

A man cooks on a hot plate in a mostly empty kitchen.
Fellow stress baker in action.

Gina is adjusting to typical academic BS, finding the tenured faculty monopolizing her time both on- and off-campus.  Janeane Garofalo is weirdly one of the tenured ladies, and encourages Gina to go out drinking with her tenure committee, then shames her when she gets drunk.  Sounds about right for tenured faculty.

A woman passes her cell phone to another woman, giving her a sly grin.
It’s not a dick pic, promise.

Meanwhile, their son Clark is dealing with sudden attention from 2 girls in town who want to talk about rap and show off their dance moves for him.  One of the girls, Ambrosia, takes an interest in Clark in a really uncomfortable way that fetishizes him.  Shit hits the fan when Ambrosia’s mother catches them in a compromising position, causing Clark to lash out and make a decision he regrets.

A mixed-race boy with an afro sits next to a blonde white girl. He is wearing a striped shirt.
Spoiler:  it does not involve mixing a horizontally striped shirt with vertical stripes.

Dripping with symbolism, all of the family’s personal belongings have been delayed, and Mack has discovered mold in the house that desperately needs to be removed.

With the family in chaos, perhaps the decision to move to the suburbs was a big mistake after all.

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

I’m super tired, which is one of several reasons I failed to empathize with most of the characters in this film except for Clark’s cousin, who comes to visit near the end.  He’s the main source of comic relief, offering sage advice beyond his years to the entire family.  However, it’s too little too late, and it doesn’t help that I didn’t particularly care about the family.  We were never off to a good start as it really rubbed me the wrong way when all the members of the family were marveling about how beautiful and spacious their new house was…possibly because I’m eternally bitter about my lack of financial freedom.  IDK, Mack and Gina felt way too bland to be these cool trendy artists.

It would have been cool to see more of the “before” picture of the family’s life in Brooklyn rather than hear Gina wax poetic about what a beautiful haven for amazingly talented artists and intellectuals it is.  FFS, we get it—hipsters fucking love Brooklyn.

Most of the secondary characters didn’t come off much better.  I really hated Ambrosia, and it took Clark a damn long time to realize she may not be an overly nice person.  Christine Taylor and Janeane Garofalo were so underutilized and had maybe 5 minutes tops on screen.

I think my problem here was that I wanted this to be either funnier or more dramatic.  It failed to make me laugh or produce any genuine feeling in me…except, you know, ironically.  Like a Brooklyn hipster.

Did Christa like this one before it was cool?  Read her review here to find out!