Written by: Matt Patti | February 20th, 2020
The Lodge (Severin Fiala/Veronika Franz, 2019) 3 out of 4 Stars.
Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala’s The Lodge has been playing in theatres in select markets for some time now but is expanding to cover most of the U.S. on February 21st. Franz and Fiala’s acclaimed horror-thriller Goodnight Mommy opened to rave reviews back in 2014. I got the chance to see it a few years after it premiered and was blown away by both the clever writing and tense, disturbing atmosphere. The Lodge tells the story of a family that goes up to a cabin for Christmas and soon experiences some strange, horrifying events. It draws many parallels to Goodnight Mommy, emulating much of the aspects that I love about that film while adding its own flair. It also seems to draw inspiration from some other claustrophobic, atmospheric thrillers like Hereditary (2018) and The Shining (1980).
There are many twists and turns in The Lodge and it is my personal belief that the less one knows about a film before going into it the better. Therefore, I will attempt to describe the basic plot as loosely as I can here without giving away too much. The Lodge follows a family that goes up to a cabin for Christmas in order to bond. The father, Richard (Richard Armitage, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey) is recently divorced and about to get married to his new love interest, Grace (Riley Keough, It Comes At Night). Richard’s two kids, Aidan (Jaeden Martell, IT) and Mia (Lia McHugh) are not looking forward to this trip, as they cannot stand Grace and blame her for replacing their mother. They reluctantly attend and tensions run high between Grace and them. The father has to leave the cabin for a few days for work, and thus the three are left alone in an awkward situation. Soon, though, strange events begin to happen around the cabin. Now, Grace, Aidan, and Mia must attempt to coexist in order to endure these events and figure out what is causing them.
The performances from our lead cast are all subtle but exceptional, with each character contributing something different to the overall message of the film. The film’s opening minutes are filled with drama and the revelation of horrific past events our main characters have had to endure. The setup is done very well, drawing the audience in on intrigue and mystery and making us want more. Once the family arrives at the cabin, the tension and interactions of Grace with Aidan and Mia are interesting enough to keep the movie afloat, even though it takes a while for anything significantly strange to happen. Once the father leaves, many strange things do begin to take place, and the film becomes even more interesting and a bit confusing. The characters and the audience alike are baffled by what is taking place in front of them, but all is answered before the credits in a chilling finale.
While The Lodge takes many good aspects from Goodnight Mommy and even enhances them, ironically many of the issues I have with The Lodge are the same ones I have with Goodnight Mommy, as well. First, there are too many dream sequences, which I am not a fan of at all, especially in horror films. They seem like cheap devices that lead to a jump-scare without having to deal with the character ramifications of a truly scary event happening in the film’s reality. The Lodge is loaded with dream sequences just as the directors’ 2014 film is. Also, the general sense of confusion in the second act is frustrating, but maybe it is intended that way to make the film’s third-act reveal especially potent. The final issue I have is that the film deals with religion quite a bit and has some glaring inaccuracies about the bible in it, coming from someone who has studied the bible for much of his life as a Christian. The interpretation of the book is open, for sure, but there are some downright incorrect quotes and false facts characters state about it. Of course, there are quite a few versions of the Christian bible out there, so perhaps the film is alluding to this.
Overall, The Lodge is an effective, gripping tale that has well-fleshed-out characters that are put in interesting situations that bring the best and the worst out in all of them. The film slows down a bit after its opening act but soon regains traction in the third act with some impressive twists and turns. A slow-burn though it may be, the interactions between characters and their development always keep it interesting and fresh. Though it may draw some comparisons to other films, The Lodge tells its own memorable story very well, and is one I will not soon forget.