Goodnight, Mommy

The boundlessness of the juvenile imagination is often treated as whimsical and wonderful, but in this Austrian shocker the fanciful ideas rattling around inside children’s skulls grow hideously dark. When Lukas and Elias’s mother returns home from facial surgery, unrecognizable in a mask of bandages, the twins decide she’s an imposter rather than the sweet woman who sings to them from a recording they play at night. This “new” mother speaks to and feeds only one of them, which convinces the boys she’s trying to tear them apart, the highest crime that can be perpetrated against twins; you get the feeling that she’s been an outsider all along. The first dramatic feature from writer-directors Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz (the latter a longtime collaborator of Ulrich Seidl), this is beautifully shot and paced but gets really sick and mean at the end. Like The Babadook, a recent Australian chiller involving a mother and child, and plenty of other horror pictures before it, it’s ultimately about the psychological toll of grief.