Austrian filmmakers Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz continue to make the case that they are forces to be reckoned with their second narrative feature. Grappling with psychological horror is hard to pull off in a convincing way and leave the audience with something to chew on after the credits roll. An unsettling tone is set during the first ten minutes, and maintained until the credits.
The Lodge starts with a family getting together at their winter cabin, something seems a bit off and it’s confirmed when Richard (Richard Armitage) tells his wife Laura (Alicia Silverstone) that they need to finalize their divorce so he can remarry. Laura doesn’t take this news well and leaves. A shockingly violent act by Laura sets off this very dark story. Leaving behind two very distraught children, Aidan (Jaeden Martell) and Mia (Lia McHugh) who place the blame of losing their mother squarely on their fathers new love interest, Grace (Riley Keough). We only catch glimpses of Grace at first, her presents around the siblings father is met with anger and contempt. When we are introduced to Grace without her just being a silhouette, they are all together in the car heading to the family’s secluded lodge for the Christmas holiday. The plan is for Grace to spend some time bonding with the children while dad goes back to the city to work until Christmas Day. Things do not go as planned.
Grace just wants to bond but the kids want nothing to do with her, especially once they find out that she is the central subject in their fathers newest book about cults. Grace’s past is a bit of a mystery, put together by flashbacks and what the children uncover. While the film will have you fear what she might be capable of, it does not shy away from the possibility that the kids themselves may be up to no good.
Themes of depression, religious extremism, and suicide are all very present. This is a dark tale made even darker by the stellar performances from the three leads. The creepy yet perfect score and tight cinematography give the film an even sharper edge. Often static images and lingering shots on crucifixes and the virgin Mary lead the viewer towards certain implications. Playing with religious extremism and mental illness is not foreign to the genre, but played to near perfect ends.
What I found that I enjoyed the most was that the directors played with expectations. The audience is led down a certain path by the narrative but there are several diverging ideas that make themselves known later on in the film, leaving one to doubt their own expectations. It is very rare that a film keeps me guessing, especially a horror film.
While there are other films that are kindred here, Hereditary comes to mind, there is a distinct voice here. One that is pulling on the threads of emotions we don’t want to betray us, things like trust, compassion, and innocence. Can you feel sorry for, and yet hate the same person? Are ones actions purely dictated by circumstance, or are deeper questions being asked? This is not your typical horror flick.
4 out of 5