‘Goodnight Mommy’ Naomi Watts in Matt Sobel Horror Remake – The Hollywood Reporter

Having played in the American remakes of the ring and funny gamesNaomi Watts directs another American reimagining of horror in a foreign language with Good night mom. The original 2014 Austrian feature, co-directed by Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala, was a visceral psycho-chiller about mother-son bonds twisted by mistrust and restrained affection in a vicious nightmare. It was a devilish exercise in precisely controlled tone, atmosphere, and ambiguity, which paid off with a final act reveal that effectively recalibrated the entire story. Matt Sobel’s redesign tones down the cruelty and strips away the more grotesque touches, resulting in bedroom drama that never gets under the skin.

Premiering Sept. 16 on Amazon, the film is mid-tier streaming fare — well-acted, visually smooth, and fueled by an ominous orchestral score from Alex Weston that takes on heavy sawing strings. But this music struggles to do the unsettling work that should be the domain of Sobel’s direction and Kyle Warren’s screenplay. Like so many American horror remakes, the movie pokes fun at the malevolence that made its predecessor so disturbing and ultimately fails to stand on its own.

Good night mom

The essential

Will not disturb your sleep.

Release date: Friday, September 16 (Amazon Prime Video)
CastNaomi Watts, Cameron Crovetti, Nicholas Crovetti, Peter Hermann, Crystal Lucas-Perry, Jeremy Bobb
Director: Matt Sobel
Scriptwriter: Kyle Warren, based on the film by Veronika Franz and Severian Fiala, produced by Ulrich Seidl

Rated R, 1 hour 31 minutes

Twin brothers Elias and Lukas (Cameron and Nicholas Crovetti) are dropped off by their father (Peter Hermann) to stay at the secluded country home of their famous mother (Watts), a recovering actress. The boys are somewhat panicked when she greets them with her head wrapped in bandages and her face completely obscured except for her eyes. She assures them that there is nothing to fear: “Mom has just undergone a small operation. I just needed a change, a fresh start.

Right off the bat, Warren’s storyline over-explains instead of maintaining some mystery – the brothers’ parents are estranged and their suddenly self-absorbed mother has just done major face work, so this could be the half story. Beverly Hills kids.

Mom’s reassurances aside, the boys soon notice something odd about her. The woman who sang them to sleep every night with “You Are My Sunshine” has been replaced by a chilly disciplinarian who sets new house rules: no running or shouting; no sun ; no reading dates; his bedroom and office are prohibited, as is the barn. They wonder if she has changed or if it was just their long separation that made her stop loving them.

Elias and Lukas anger their mother when she catches them in the barn, where something ugly seems to have happened. But the boys are more surprised by her behavior when she thinks she is alone and they sneak into her room to observe her. Once a lifelong non-smoker, she now huffs while dancing like a stripper in front of the mirror (to Edwyn Collins’ “A Girl Like You”). Watts’ physicality in this scene has a curious alien quality, echoed in Elias’ body-horror dreams.

As the brothers take steps to distance themselves from her, their mother becomes more enraged and even violent. But local police (Crystal Lucas-Perry, Jeremy Bobb) blame their endangerment claims on the kids’ wild imaginations, forcing them to take drastic measures to figure out what happened to their mother.

Anyone who has seen Franz-Fiala’s version will recall that things got extremely scary at this point, as the boys lost any vestige of innocence and became sadistic in their interrogation methods. This helped inject uncertainty into public sympathies, oscillating between the monstrous mother and the threatened sons, who were anything but helpless. The constant tightening of the vise as scene after scene increased the tension was excruciating

Tension and suspense are sacrificed here. The filmmakers seem more interested in exploring the violation of sacred trust between a mother and her children for psychological drama than scares. It’s a worthy enough choice, but not a particularly gripping one in this narrative. The perverse distortions of family ties in Austrian film were truly subversive. Sobel and Warren’s take insists on grounding everything in trauma that’s so carefully flagged that you’re likely to see the big twist coming.

Watts’ characterization is raw and abrasive enough to keep us guessing for a moment, and the Crovetti brothers (previously seen as Nicole Kidman’s sons in big little lies) provide enough subtle distinctions to express how the power dynamics work between Elias and Lukas. The uneven performance that compromised Sobel’s otherwise promising feature debut, take me to the river, are not a problem here. But as solid as the cast is, history seems hazy in this muted reimagining.

Full Credits

Distribution: Amazon Prime Video
Production companies: Playtime, Animal Kingdom, in association with Big Indie Pictures
Starring: Naomi Watts, Cameron Crovetti, Nicholas Crovetti, Peter Hermann, Crystal Lucas-Perry, Jeremy Bobb
Director: Matt Sobel
Screenwriter: Kyle Warren, based on the film by Veronika Franz and Severian Fiala, produced by Ulrich Seidl
Producers: VJ Guibal, Nicolas Brigaud-Robert, Joshua Astrachan, David Kaplan
Executive producers: Veronika Franz, Severin Fiala, Naomi Watts, Kyle Warren, Matt Sobel, Derrick Tseng, Sébastien Beffa, François Yon
Director of photography: Alexandre Dynan
Production designer: Mary Lena Colston
Costume designer: Carisa Kelly
Music: Alex Weston
Editors: Michael Taylor, Maya Maffioli
Starring: Henry Russel Bergstein, Allison Estrin

Rated R, 1 hour 31 minutes

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