When a child has a nightmare, the first person they will typically go to for comfort is their mother. However, what can a child do when they suffer a nightmare they cannot wake up from and the cause is their mother… or someone who claims to be? That is the question that
Goodnight Mommy aims to answer — at the beginning, at least.
Director Matt Sobel’s thriller is a reimagining of Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala’s unnerving Austrian horror movie from 2014 about two twin boys who suspect their mother is not who she says she is after she returns from a cosmetic surgery operation with a bandaged face and an unusually unfriendly demeanor. Some critics agree that the English-language update manages to stand on its own by tweaking the story a bit, but the twist from the original
Goodnight Mommy ending is still in tact, for the most part. Before we say “goodnight,” let’s take a deeper look at how this shocking reveal is presented in Amazon Prime’s exclusive reinterpretation and what it means in the following breakdown — starting with a recap of its final moment.
(Image credit: Amazon Studios) What Happens At The End Of Goodnight Mommy
As he is about to make a final escape, a discovery allows Elias (Cameron Crovetti, who also plays Ryan on Amazon’s
The Boys) to finally to see through the lies of his twin brother, Lukas (Nicholas Crovetti, who has also worked with his sibling in the Big Little Lies cast and another upcoming horror movie called Boy Kills World), and realize that the woman he has been antagonizing this whole time is his real mother (Academy Award nominee Naomi Watts, in her latest horror movie remake following The Ring and King Kong). After cutting her loose from the duct-tape constraining her to her bed, Elias is warmly embraced by his mother, to whom he apologetically claims he was forced to do all these horrible things by Lukas, who is suddenly nowhere to be seen.
The mother then decides to take Elias to the barn outside their house — the one place on the property that she deemed forbidden — and they climb up to a loft where Mother shines her gas-lit lantern on the reddish stain the boy had found earlier. A sobbing Elias refuses to look at the stain or identify it as blood while Mother tells him to “stop pretending” and assures him that “it wasn’t [his] fault” because he did not realize the gun was loaded. Another close-up on the beam reveals a previously unseen hole that came from a bullet accidentally that killed Lukas.
Elias — still refusing to believe that his brother is dead and has been a figment of his imagination this whole time — shoves his mother from the balcony, which also causes her lantern to break. The surrounding hay begins to catch fire and Elias runs out of the barn before it is completely engulfed in flames and collapses and kills Mother, if her fall did not already. Suddenly, the boy is approached by Lukas and his mother, who tells him that he “did not do anything wrong” and was “so strong” before kneeling down to wipe away his tears and hug him.
(Image credit: Amazon Studios) How The Film Hints At The Heartbreaking Twist
Having already seen the original
Goodnight Mommy years earlier, I was able to identify clues suggesting Lukas had died and was never truly there as they occurred throughout the film. For instance, at the beginning, when the boys’ father (Peter Hermann) appears to be talking to both twins, but is really only talking to Elias. In fact, every scene in which Elias speaks to another person — be it his mother or the two police officers they later encounter (Jeremy Bobb and Crystal Lucas-Perry) — is framed to distract you from realizing that no one ever directly addresses Lukas.
The bigger hints lie in the behavior of the Mother, who appears to act out of character from Elias’ perspective — from not singing her rewrite of “You Are My Sunshine” to them before bed, to ripping up Elias’ drawing that he signs as being from both him and Lukas, to demanding Elias ignore his brother in favor of listening to her. While many of her choices would not earn the character a “Mother of the Year” award (holding Elias down in the shower while bombarding him with cold water as punishment was especially harsh), we come to discover these are reactions to her own grief from losing her son and having to pretend Lukas was still alive for Elias’ sake.
His delusions are also alluded to when Elias asks Lukas what the reddish stain in the barn might be and Lukas assures that it is probably just paint or when Lukas tries to convince his brother that the woman they believe is posing as their mother is manipulatively trying to tear them apart any time Elias begins to think rationally. Perhaps the most telling moment occurs when Mother tells the two cops “that line between fantasy and reality [has] vanished,” which initially seems to refer to both boys’ overactive imaginations and perceptions about her, but is really just about Elias’ overactive imagination convincing him his brother’s death never happened.
(Image credit: Playtime) How The Ending Differs From The Original Movie
There are many ways in which the English-language version of
Goodnight Mommy separates itself from the Austrian version. For instance, the new film aims to be a somber family drama with a compelling air of mystery, while the original is a thoroughly creepy and dread-inducing slow-burn horror that also sees the mother (Susanne Wuest) endure far more disturbing interrogations from her son and his imaginary twin (Lukas and Elias Schwarz). The climactic twist, however, is the same, so the man differences lie in the presentation.
In the original
Goodnight Mommy, Elias is never directly forced to confront the fact that his brother is dead and is never convinced that the Mother is really his mother, which is why he intentionally burns down their house and, apparently, kills both her and himself. The final shot of the film sees what I have always interpreted as Elias reunited with Lukas and “his real mother” in the afterlife. Meanwhile, in the new one, Elias survives the accidental fire that kills his mother and seems to continue living under the influence of his delusions as the ghosts of his brother and his mother haunt his imagination.
I found myself almost more affected and upset by the final shot of the remake, knowing that this version of Elias really never meant to hurt his mother while Elias in 2014’s
Goodnight Mommy was a grossly misguided, unstoppable force of vengeance. However, I would say I prefer the original overall for its more overtly unsettling visuals and consistently eerie atmosphere. Thus, I am glad Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala’s equally shocking follow-up to Goodnight Mommy — 2020’s The Lodge — was already made in English, because that will more likely remain the version that American audiences are most familiar with.