31 Days of Nightmares — Goodnight Mommy & The Witches’ Mountain
So much hype and anticipation, so much disappointment.
I was really psyched to see Goodnight Mommy. The trailer was weird and creepy and hinted at dark secrets. The trailer was better than the actual movie. The silver lining is that we got to see it at Buffalo’s restored North Park Theater, which is an absolute gem, and I’m really happy they ran this movie (even if I didn’t end up liking it).
Warning — I am going to utterly spoil the crap out of Goodnight Mommy in this review. If you still want to see it unspoiled, turn back now.
Ok, so, this is basically the story of a woman who has returned from some kind of facial surgery and her twin sons’ suspicion that someone other than their actual mother has come back. There is some very creepy imagery initially, as the mother looks quite disturbing with her bruised and bandaged face. And to be sure, she’s a shitty mom even though she’s dealing with a very stressful situation.
The movie takes a long time building a sense of dread. It’s frankly a bit slow — I don’t mind a subtle horror movie, but some scenes could use serious editing. I could excuse if it all lead somewhere interesting. The setup for a great horror movie is there — what is Mommy now?
But, here’s where I spoil things. Mommy is just a woman who had a facelift. The twins are the real horrors. In something straight out of Sixth Sense, one of the twins is actually not real — he died in an accident at some point before the surgery, but the remaining twin still sees him and interacts with him. When Mommy returns from surgery, she refuses to play along with this delusion any longer, so the boy decides she isn’t his real mom. What follows is a bit of torture porn that’s maybe more hard-hitting because it’s committed by a kid, but it’s nothing new. There’s a pretty stunning image at the climax, of the mom engulfed in fire and spasming in agony. But a few creepy images don’t make up for a boring and ultimately unimaginative horror movie.
I need to learn to beware mainstream hype for a horror movie. People who don’t watch a lot of horror are easily thrilled by the most mediocre of scares.
The Witches’ Mountain
This movie turned up in one of those 50-pack DVD sets, so, you know…low expectations. It turned out to be far better and worse than I could possibly have hoped for. This is a Spanish movie from 1972, and it sounds way cooler under the original title, El monte de las brujas. I’d love to describe the plot for you, but it makes absolutely no sense in any way. If you ever find this movie, watch the first 15 minutes, then walk away. The opening sequence includes a little girl proudly talking about murdering a cat because it threatened her pet snake, then a woman setting the little girl on fire. Stay long enough to meet the actual the protagonist, a guy named Mario. He is what it would look like if the 1970s became sentient and took the form of a human being. We also referred ti him as “MSS” throughout the movie, which stands for Mustache Support System. Mario’s hopes and dreams and fears as a real human are all secondary to his true purpose in life, to provide nourishment and mobility to that magnificent mustache.
The remaining hour and half are just incomprehensible, and not because of the Giallo style overdubbing. Many scenes are so poorly lit you’re just staring at a blank black screen. Without the synopsis provided by the DVD set, we’d have had literally no idea what was going on, and even that barely helped. I don’t understand how someone goes to the trouble to make a movie, no matter how amateurish, without at least some idea of a story and how to express it.