It's unavoidable for people who care about movies to compare remakes to their source films. While American audiences prefer to read subtitles, and English-language remakes open the film to wider audiences, it's also true that a certain percentage of the audience for any remake is composed of people who want to see what the film has gained or lost in a second translation to the screen.
Remakes lose something in the updating process, but horror films suffer more than most. There are outliers, like Let the Right One In's competent American remake Let Me In. The reason that one works well only draws attention to the mistakes of other remakes. Matt Reeves, the director of The Batman and Cloverfield, didnt set out to emulate Let the Right One In.
Sometimes, remakes go horribly wrong. On the other extreme end of the spectrum, there's a new poster child for how not to remake a film: Goodnight Mommy in the United States.
After a long, acclaimed festival run across the globe, Goodnight Mommy, a brazen, unflinching horror film from a country that isn't well-known for its movie industry, although it is well-known for comedy and historic dramas. It's enough to say that its kids are creepy enough, and the ending is dark enough to shiver even the most afraid of horror enthusiasts.
The main issue looming was whether the new film would be as ruthless and nihilistic as the original. Not only does the remake lack the will to even approach the original in terms of terror and on-screen suffering, it does not really work as a film in its own right.
Naomi Watts will play the titular mother in the new film. With the English remakes The Ring and Funny Games under her belt, Watts may have appeared like an easy choice for the lead of yet another American remake of an international horror film. The remake's flaws arent due to her lack of craft or effort; the issues are solely in the writing and direction.
Elias and Lucas, twins who have just been dropped off at their mothers Connecticut farmhouse after she apparently separated from their father, are playful and a bit shy until they see their mother for the first time on this visit. Mother is wearing a huge bandage across her entire head, resembling a white balaclava, and the kids settle into their new family structure. That first night, after the boys have been tucked into their bunkbed, the boys joke about something concerning their mother.
Goodnight Mommy drops the ball completely at this point, and it never picks it back up. Not only does the film show its card on the creep factor of Mother nearly an hour earlier than the original, but it establishes the fact that these boys will spend the film talking constantly, voiding any sense of tension or ambiguity throughout the film. For fans of the original, the loss of everything is devastating.
Add to all of this the fact that these boys aren't that weird. Twins are a major horror trope, capable of igniting the uncanny and provoking uneasy feelings in films without much explanation (Just look at Stanley Kubricks The Shining). Elias and Lucas are just normal kids, or at least normal when they aren't being overly verbose.
On top of that, there are a myriad of disappointing or confusing moments throughout the film. There are strange, misplaced sexual moments with Mother and the children that arent consistent with the characters or circumstances, and there are even a few cheap jump scares that lead nowhere. The Ice Bucket Challenge is a film that was both poorly shot and took as a given that it was a remarkable body horror.
Goodnight Mommy, an excellent horror film from the last decade, has been ignored or reversed in this depreciating remake. Not all remakes are absolute failures, but this one is. The original version is available for free on Vudu and Tubi, but the new one isn't worth seeing at the same price point.
On September 16, Goodnight Mommy will be released on Prime Video.