It may be unfair to compare remakes to their source films, but it is also unavoidable for people who care about movies. While American audiences refuse to read subtitles, and English-language remakes open the film to wider audiences, it's also true that a certain portion of the audience for any remake is composed of fans who want to see what a film has gained or lost in a second translation to the screen.
Remakes tend to lose something in the update process, but horror films tend to suffer more than the others. Let the Right One In's competent American remake Let Me In draws attention to the original's mood and tension, but Matt Reeves, who directed The Batman and Cloverfield, also did not want to pay tribute to the original Swedish film.
Sometimes, remakes go horribly wrong. At the extreme end of the spectrum, there's a new poster child for how not to remake a film: Goodnight Mommy in the United States.
Goodnight Mommy, the original Austrian horror film, was released in 2015 after a long festival run across the globe. It's a brazen, unflinching horror film from a country that is less well-known for its historical dramas. However, Goodnight Mommy pushed those boundaries far beyond the norm.
The biggest worry loomed when Goodnight Mommy's English-language remake was announced, and if it would go as hard and conclude in a nihilist way as the original. Not only does the remake lack the willpower to even approach the original film in terms of terror and on-screen suffering, but it does not really work as a film in its own right.
Naomi Watts plays the titular mother in the new film The Ring and Funny Games, which she has worked on before. Watts may have appeared to be an easy choice for the lead in yet another American remake of a worldwide horror film. The faults in the remake aren't due to her lack of skill or effort, the solutions lie solely in the script and direction.
Elias and Lucas, twins, have just been dropped off at their mothers Connecticut farmhouse after she apparently separated from their father. The two boys are initially surprised when they learn that their mother is wearing a huge bandage across her entire head, similar to a white balaclava. They gradually settle into their new family structure.
Goodnight Mommy completely drops the ball at this point, and never recovers. It establishes the fact that these kids will spend the entire film talking continuously, voiding any sense of tension or ambiguity throughout the film. For fans of the original, the loss of everything they saw in this horror film is devastating.
Add to all of this the fact that these boys just arent strange. Twins are a major horror trope, capable of instilling the uncanny and causing uneasy feelings in films without much explanation. (Look at Stanley Kubricks The Shining.) But Elias and Lucas are completely ignored in their remake.
Then there are the other countless unpleasant or conflicting things that go unnoticed throughout the entire film. Mother preening at a mirror while Elias spy on her, sarcastic outbursts from both Mother and the children that arent consistent with the characters or circumstances, and even a few cheap jump scares that lead nowhere. The Ice Bucket Challenge, which is both poorly shot and takes as a given that the extreme body horror in the original film
Goodnight Mommy is one of the finest horror films of the last decade, but almost every element that contributed to that quality has been overlooked or reversed in this sleazy remake. Not all remakes are unequivocal 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.
On September 16, Goodnight Mommy will be available on Prime Video.