A mother returns from hospital with her head covered in bandages. She demands total silence from her two sons, who are identical twins. No sunlight is allowed into the house. Only one of the brothers may eat. The other one gets nothing. They’re not allowed to have contact with each other. Their house becomes a prison, a hospital, a breeding ground for madness and trauma.

There must be something strange in the Austrian air. They regularly produce chillingly frightening art-house movies that take you on a demonic sightseeing trip through the vile sewers of the human soul. Everybody knows Michael Haneke’s vicious dissections of humanity. But there’s also Michaël by Markus Shleinzer, who exposed us to the inner world of a pedophile. And the movies of Ulrich Seidl (Dog Days, Import/Export, the Paradise trilogy) always take you to places you’ve never wanted to go to. All these movies show a kind of horror that can’t be laughed away, that profoundly disturbs and confronts because it is rooted in grim reality. Goodnight Mommy, by Severin Fiala en Veronika Franz (who happens to be the co-writer of Ulrich Seidl’s films) is a brilliant addition to these “horrors of the human psyche” tradition.

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