by Addison Hemingway
Director: Matt Sobel
Starring: Naomi Watts, Cameron Crovetti & Nicholas Crovetti
Runtime: 1 hour & 32 minutes
In 2014, Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz co-directed the twisted and terrifying horror film, "Goodnight Mommy. This Austrian film falls, rightfully into the psychological horror category for its cringy gore, dreadful suspense and mind-bending plot twists. This grim story explores the plot of two young twin boys, reunited with their mother after a mysterious accident and her subsequent complete facial reconstruction surgery. As the situation becomes even more unusual, the boys are confronted with the eerie possibility that the mother they returned to is an imposter. The film was so successful in creeping out audiences, it was given the opportunity for an American remake that premiered in September.
The 2022 remake of "Goodnight Mommy" was written by Kyle Warren and directed by Matt Sobel. This film examines a brutal family trauma through the dark, enigmatic lens of a 9-year-old boy struggling with the terrifying, universal anxiety- that the person you trust most, isn't who they say they are. What made the original film so terrifying was the powerful dread and suspense curated by witnessing all the events that unfolded through the distorted imagination of the young twins. This crippling anxiety along with grotesque visuals is sure to make one's skin crawl.
However, to draw an audience for the lesser-known foreign horror flick, Naomi Watts was cast in the role of the mother. While casting an Academy Award-nominated actress certainly gained attention for the American remake; her role of a hideous figure shrouded in mystery was overshadowed by her professional popularity. Hollywood's fixation with beautiful women put Watts' character at the center of the movie. This diverged significantly from the original plot and caused the fear and suspicion we are supposed to have for the mother to dissipate throughout the movie. In a recent interview, Jordan Peele, one of the biggest names in horror today, expressed the importance of keeping the audience afraid of "the monster.” In the 1975 horror blockbuster, "Jaws", the shark doesn't make a visual appearance until one hour and 21 minutes into the two-hour movie. What was so brilliant about the original Austrian film was how frightened both the twins and the audience were of the mother until the very end. In the remake of "Goodnight Mommy," we become too familiar with Watts’ character to develop any real fear of her.
Another significant way the new adaptation diverges from the original film was in its lack of squirm-worthy moments. The directors of the 2014 film knew that a truly terrifying horror movie must ignite all the senses. There are many ways to accomplish this- Fiala and Franz did so with tanks of hissing cockroaches, long periods of ominous silence followed by jump scares, and an interrogation scene of Mommy that the new director possibly felt was too disturbing for an American audience. Sobel and Warren were too preoccupied with steering the direction of the plot that they didn't take the time to adequately creep the audience out.
The effort to suppress some of the darker themes of the film also extends to the resolution of the plot. To comfort the audience and end the movie in a way that many American movie fans would find satisfying, the remake tried to tie up any loose ends. In the original, the twins are never forced to confront their trauma and never become utterly convinced that the mother really is his mother. The lack of closure in the original might have been upsetting to some of the audience, but what is horror if not upsetting? This American remake would have been slightly more successful had the producers leaned into the audiences' discomfort over an open ending.
It's disappointing that an American remake of such an intensely frightening film could fall so short of its inspiration. Not to say the American remake of "Goodnight Mommy" isn't scary, but it is sorely lacking in the eerie suspense and stomach-churning action that made the original 2014 film such a chilling success.
“Goodnight Mommy” is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video. The original is streaming on Amazon Prime Video and Tubi.
by Tyler Glover
Director: Anne Fletcher
Starring: Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker & Kathy Najimy
Runtime: 1 hour & 43 minutes
SISTTTTTTTAAAAAASSSSSSSSS! Gather round! The time has finally come! The Witches Are Back! Thankfully, we did not have to wait 300 more years for a virgin to light the Black Flame Candle for the Sanderson Sisters to return in Disney’s “Hocus Pocus 2.” (Out now on Disney+)
However, when “Hocus Pocus” first came out in 1993, the idea it would get a sequel would have been laughed at. It did not perform well at the box office mostly due to a horrible decision by Disney to place the film for a summer release instead of during the Halloween season the film depicts. Over the years, though, the film gained tons of fans when released on television and those fans shared it with their kids leading “Hocus Pocus 2” to be an inevitable reality.
Was it everything fans were wanting it to be? Will the magic continue after dawn approaches or does the film deserve to remain buried like Billy Butcherson?
This time the Witches are brought back unwittingly by two best friends named Becca and Izzy (Whitney Peak and Belissa Escobedo). Celebrating Becca’s 16th birthday in the Forbidden Woods of Salem, they are tricked into lighting the candle that brings Winifred, Mary and Sarah Sanderson (Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy and Sarah Jessica Parker) back once more. This time around, Winifred ditches collecting children’s souls with two clear motives in mind: to get revenge on the Mayor of Salem and achieve immortality by becoming the most powerful witch of all time.
Where this film truly shines is how incredible it is to see these three actresses reuniting 29 years after the original and it seems like this sequel was just shot a year later. The chemistry between all three actresses is incredible and for the most part, they step back into the characters like they never left them. Midler really does almost steal the show in every scene she is in. I do wish Najimy was given a little more to do as Mary but the sequence with her on the two Roombas is pretty hilarious. Parker mostly delivers as Sarah. There were a few moments that seemed a little out of characterization with her, but it wasn’t too distracting from the overall film.
Another highlight for me was Hannah Waddingham as the Mother Witch. We get a little bit of the Sanderson Sisters’ backstory and how Winifred got her Book. Waddingham’s scene is fantastic, and her commitment makes you feel like she is going to be there throughout the whole movie. In fact, I would have loved to see Waddingham more and if there is another “Hocus Pocus” to come out, I demand Waddingham be back, and her character given more to do.
We definitely cannot count out the two main best friends either: Becca and Izzy. Peak and Escobedo’s chemistry as best friends is incredible to see. They have such a likeability factor to both of them and have us rooting for them even though we aren’t given as much of a history between them. The film seems to get the Sanderson Sisters on screen as quickly as possible, knowing this is the main attraction for all of the fans.
The film definitely delivers on the laughs. Unfortunately, it is not as funny as the original and does not have as many quotes that will seem to make it stick out. This is mostly because the film really delivers on nostalgia by finding ways to incorporate previous lines. This definitely makes the fans love it even more. It just does not make THIS film particularly stand out as much as its predecessor. However, it is such a fun movie. I ended the film with a huge smile on my face. It may not have fully recaptured the magic from the original, but it did come pretty close. It will definitely be a film my family and I go back to every Halloween when we aren’t dressing up and running amok, amok, amok, amok.
by Tyler Glover
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Starring: Benjamin Evan Ainsworth, Tom Hanks & Cynthia Erivo
Runtime: 1 hour & 45 minutes
Once upon a time and happily ever afters have been given new lives ever since Disney started churning out remake after remake since 2010’s “Alice In Wonderland.” It is true that Disney had dabbled in these remakes before with 1994’s “Jungle Book” and 1996’s “101 Dalmatians,” but the success of ‘Alice’ set a campaign in motion for Disney to redo every animated film in its cannon into a live-action film. Almost all of them have been pretty successful in terms of revenue but as far as quality, they have been all over the place. It appears Disney has three different ways that they have been sticking to: remake the exact same film in live-action form (“The Lion King”), retell a story to understand the villain’s motives (“Maleficent”), or make the film almost the same with a few changes that add layers (“Beauty and the Beast”). On September 8th, Disney released its latest live-action remake, “Pinocchio” on its streaming service, Disney+. What strategy did Disney use for this remake? And did this make fans feel like their wish on a star was granted or have we been turned into donkeys like the boys on Pleasure Island?
Just like in the animated film, this version of “Pinocchio” tells the story of an elderly woodcarver named Geppetto (Tom Hanks), who makes a puppet named Pinocchio (voiced by Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) that he wishes will come to life. His wish is granted by the Blue Fairy (Cynthia Erivo) who tells Pinocchio that if he can prove to be brave, truthful and selfish, he can become a real boy. Pinocchio sets off with the best of intentions but finds himself in trouble despite the efforts of his conscience, Jiminy Cricket (voiced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Pinocchio ends up imprisoned by Stromboli, a scheming puppeteer who intends to use him to make money off him and even gets turned into a donkey on Treasure Island. Pinocchio has to find his way back home and prove that he has what it takes to be a real boy.
The strategy Disney uses for this film is mostly to tell the story almost verbatim as it did back in 1940. If that is what you are coming to see, this film is going to be a must-see. It is visually dazzling and beautiful to look at. The scenes with the whale and seeing the Blue Fairy are stunning. What makes this film a little bit of a misfire is that it attempts to add some depth as to Geppetto’s emotions and why he carved Pinocchio in the first place, but it’s just not enough and honestly from a company that tends to be able to handle everything at emotional heights, this didn’t have the emotional impact it was intended to have. If it was done a little bit differently, less subtly, and even remotely mentioned again later in the film, it could have really turned this film into a tearjerker of a film that would touch us all even more.
The performances in the film are splendid, especially that of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who voices Jiminy Cricket. Jiminy is brought to life with such cheerful and sarcastic wit making us realize just how much we have missed him. Hanks shows us why he is Hollywood’s go-to guy for saint roles. Erivo gives us a beautiful rendition of “When You Wish Upon A Star,” getting me even more excited to see her as Elphaba in 2024 and 2025’s upcoming “Wicked” films.
All in all, this version of “Pinocchio” is a visual spectacle with good performances that does follow the original pretty religiously. The few moments that it has to be different that would have probably made it even better and a must-see for me aren’t handled as well as they could have been. While it was mostly a good film, I would have my nose grow if I said that it was everything I wanted it to be.
by Julian Spivey
Halloween Ends – Peacock – Premieres: Friday, Oct. 14
Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) has seemingly spent all of her adult life running from and haunted by Michael Myers. Their decades-long battle is coming to a finale in the aptly named “Halloween Ends,” directed by David Gordon Green, which drops on Peacock and in movie theaters on Friday, Oct. 14. Who’s going to win this battle of good versus evil? Or will it end on a cliffhanger, as ‘Halloween’ movies are wont to do?
The Curse of Bridge Hollow – Netflix – Premieres: Friday, Oct. 14
“The Curse of Bridge Hollow” looks like the type of film you would’ve seen in the late ‘90s or early ‘00s on the Disney Channel. Thus, it’s probably not all that great, but it’ll likely be a fun evening spent around the TV with your kids. The film stars Marlon Wayans as a teacher who must team up with his teenage daughter (Priah Ferguson) to save their town when a mischievous spirit brings all the local Halloween decorations to life.
The School for Good and Evil – Netflix – Premieres: Wednesday, Oct. 19
“The School for Good and Evil” definitely appears more fantasy than spooky, but there’s more to the Halloween spirit than just frights and jump scares. Director Paul Feig (“Bridesmaids”) brings the beloved children’s fairytale-fantasy books by Soman Chainani to life for Netflix following the tale of best friends Sophie and Agatha who are brought to the titular school to determine their fates. The film co-stars Kerry Washington, who seems to be a good teacher, and Oscar-winner Charlize Theron, who seems to be chewing up the scenery as an evil teacher.
The Good Nurse – Netflix – Premieres: Wednesday, Oct. 26
Some of life’s most real and worst monsters are the kind you wouldn’t find in an old Universal Pictures monster flick – like killer nurses. “The Good Nurse” isn’t a horror film per se, but one you should be horrified by. Based on a true story, the film directed by Tobias Lindholm, stars Oscar-winner Eddie Redmayne as a nurse suspected of killing his patients at multiple jobs and Oscar-winner Jessica Chastain as a nurse tasked with trying to help bring him down. With the acting caliber of Chastain and Redmayne, this should be a must-watch for film buffs.
Wendell & Wild – Netflix – Premieres: Friday, Oct. 28
I’ve been hoping to see a re-teaming between Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key, whose sketch comedy series “Key & Peele” is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. It might only be as the voices behind two demons in Netflix’s “Wendell & Wild,” a stop-motion animated flick directed by Henry Selick, but it’s better than nothing. In “Wendell & Wild,” the two titular demons enlist the help of a young teen (voiced by Lyric Ross of “This Is Us” fame) to help summon them to the Land of the Living where they can wreak their havoc. It looks like it might be a fun watch for the family, but I will point out it’s rated PG-13, so it might be too much for younger kiddos.
The Devil’s Hour – Amazon Prime Video – Premieres: Friday, Oct. 28
Amazon Prime Video’s “The Devil’s Hour” is the only television series to make this month’s cut, but it looks like it could be one of the spookiest offerings of the month just by looking at the intensity of Peter Capaldi’s eyes as Gideon, a reclusive nomad who’s the prime suspect in a murder spree. The series comes from former “Doctor Who” and “Sherlock” producer Steven Moffatt along with Tom Moran and co-stars Jessica Raine as a woman woken up every night between three and four a.m., regarded as a time with the unexplainable can happen known as ‘the devil’s hour.’