The Lodge movie review: A patchy but effective horror film
The Lodge is an effective horror film, but you have to sit till the end to understand what kind of horror it's actually dealing with
There are only four characters in The Lodge, and the whole film has been staged as if these four are the only people currently existing on earth. Most of it is confined to one remote location which at times feels like a polar desert. It is essentially a chamber drama.
The central conflict comes from the idea of two kids having to deal with their father's (Richard Armitage) new girlfriend, Grace (Riley Keough), after their mother's (Alicia Silverstone) suicide. The latter was driven to her fate by her husband's need to speed up divorce proceedings so that he can speed things up with Grace. Silverstone does a lot of heavy lifting despite her brief appearance. There is an odd calmness in her disposition in the moments leading up to her death which is really discomforting. The kids don't take it lightly when their father suggests that they stay with Grace in the eponymous lodge.
Directors: Severin Fiala, Veronika Franz
Cast: Riley Keough, Richard Armitage, Jaeden Martell, Lia McHugh
Streaming on: Amazon Prime
When Grace enters the picture, she becomes that 'evil stepmother' who ruined the family. The kids' cold reception, coupled with her unpredictable nature, is what generates most of the tension. That's the thing both women in the film share — you can't tell what they're thinking. Remember Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl? That's what I'm talking about. Grace is constantly tormented by her dark past. Her unsettling memories manifest themselves in weird ways.
Christian symbols show up in the film every now and then. Crosses turn up often, in different places. During a particularly testing situation, Grace runs into a cross-shaped house. There is a creepy painting that makes her uncomfortable more than once. A reference to a satanic cult, and how only one girl - Grace - survived it, takes the film in surreal directions. At one point, one of the characters wonders if they're dead. Such questions make the film colder than it already is - and it only gets colder as it goes on.
There is a lot of silence, occasionally punctured by a jarring piano score, a creaky door, or a fallen frame. Sometimes the discomfort is induced by something playing on the telly. I liked the scene where Grace and the kids are watching John Carpenter's horror classic The Thing, another film about a group of people stuck on an isolated snowy location. Anyone who has seen that film fully will not recommend it while staying at a depressing lodge. Filmmakers Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz have put so much thought into the production design and staging. The actors are filmed often in close-ups, and the cold lighting goes well with the weather outside. One of the creepiest items in the film is the kids' dollhouse whose realistic, claustrophobic interiors are indistinguishable from that of the lodge.
The screenplay is patchy - I found the set-up stronger than the payoff. But this is more than made up for with the oppressively eerie atmosphere. Themes like guilt and sin have been explored more coherently in far better films. A few chilling moments recall films like The Witch, Se7en, and The Shining. I liked how they chose to end it with an ambiguous final shot that also appears at the beginning of the film. This is an effective horror film. But you have to sit till the end - if you have the stomach for it - to understand what kind of horror it's actually dealing with.