in Review, Shocktober

The Lodge (2019)

I was on the fence about picking The Lodge for Shocktober. Even now I’m not sure if I should have gone with a different choice. I didn’t love the ending to this film but there is something special about it. I think a big part of that is the film’s directing/writing team Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala. The two films made thus far by this Austrian aunt/nephew duo have both felt unique in the stories they tell and the way they tell them. Both are isolated films that claw at the psyche and both leave behind a cold lingering sensation long after watching them.

The Lodge opens with a woman named Laura (Alicia Silverstone) visiting her ex-husband Richard (Richard Armitage). After Laura learns that Richard plans to marry a younger woman, Grace (Riley Keough), that was the lone survivor of a suicidal cult, Laura herself commits suicide, shooting herself in Richard’s home. I’ve heard a lot of people compare The Lodge to Hereditary and with scenes like this I understand the comparison. Both films feature brutal domestic tragedies where a lot of the horror stems from processing trauma. It’s a great way to set the tone for a horror movie. You’re never comfortable watching this movie.

After their mother’s passing, both of Richard’s children, Aiden (Jaeden Martell) and Mia (Lia McHugh), blame Grace for their mother’s death and want no part of her. The situation gets worse when Richard decides to take the family out to an isolated lodge for Christmas break. The catch is Richard has to commute to the city for work during the trip, leaving Grace and the kids by themselves. A winter storm ensues which is followed by a series of unexplained phenomena. This includes the power going out, the food disappearing, and strange reminders of Grace’s time in a cult.

I appreciate that The Lodge plays its cards close to its vest. You’re never entirely sure if the film is supernatural or not or what the actual threat is going to be. Is Grace going to have a Jack Nicholson in The Shining turn and chop up the kids? Are the kids up to something sinister? Or is there some greater evil at work? You really don’t know until the very end. This leads me to the film’s twist.

I won’t spoil the ending here but I found the final reveal to be far less interesting than the mystery that led to that reveal. It’s the kind of twist that makes you reassess earlier scenes. “Oh, I guess that thing I saw earlier didn’t matter.” I don’t like being told what I thought was important isn’t important. Of course, this kind of twist leaves for a stronger punch at the end but weakens the midsection. I could see some people really digging the direction The Lodge takes.

What’s inarguable is how this film looks. The Lodge is mostly set in one location but never runs out of dynamic ways to shoot that location. Personally, I’m partial to shooting dialogue scenes wide with lots of headroom. Making the characters feel small is a nice trick to build on the isolation. There are also plenty of extreme closeups to give the film a claustrophobic touch. Those decisions combined with a solid lead performance from Riley Keough make for an engrossing experience.

I’m glad to have had the opportunity to explore more of Franz and Fiala’s work. The Lodge may be a slight case of the sophomore slump but there’s still a lot of promise in what these two can deliver. Unless someone blindly throws a Marvel film at their feet. Then again, if anyone could make a disturbing movie about the Sub-Mariner, it would be these two.