I’m sure there are loads of hilarious Austrian knockabout comedies and gemutlich tales to warm the cockles like gluhwein but right now we just get the chilly stuff.
Austrian cinema, powered by the great Michael Haneke, punches way above its weight these days, with severe art house auteurs such as Jessica Hauser and Ulrich Seidl also regulars at festivals.
Seidl takes producing credits on Goodnight Mommy**** (Ich Seh, Ich Seh in the original, which literally means I See I See but is really the name of the children’s game I Spy), the debut of Veronica Franz and Severin Fiala. It’s a twisting, chilling little psychological horror about a mother held hostage by her twin sons, like Funny Games meets The Babadook.
Happy twin brothers Lukas and Elias play in the idyllic countryside around their ultra modern architect designed country cottage. Their mother gets home, her face all bandaged up after reconstructive surgery. We learn she’s a TV personality, but she’s cold and remote and barks orders at her sons, refusing even to engage with one of them and pulling the blinds down, locking doors and demanding quiet while she recovers.
“You’re not our mother,” say the twins eventually. Creepy. So are the cockroaches, the dead cat, the tomb in the woods full of bones and skulls (is it an ex-concentration camp?) and the glimpses of Mommy’s face in the mirror.
The boys turn tables on Mommy. They trap her in the bedroom and fend off visitors to the house, including two nosy Red Cross charity collectors.
The jigsaw does come together, rather brilliantly, I felt. This was wonderfully alienating and weird, a sly yet wholly compelling horror, released with delicious perversion just in time for Mother’s Day.