THE LODGE: A Fun, Subversive Horror Hit

The 2010’s were a good time for horror fans. Original visions were given a chance and excelled, and clichés were flipped on their heads rather than obediently followed. Hell, even the Oscars briefly got excited about horror with the global success of Get Out. We saw genuinely great movies that were terrifying but also smart.

Sure, there were the duds along the way, but for every Slender Man we got a Babadook, and every for every Vampires Suck we got a Hereditary. Horror had a much needed and much deserved resurgence. Heading into a new decade then, it is an interesting time for the genre, with lots of talented new filmmakers finding their feet in this exciting new world.

A New Generation of Talent

Alongside the likes of Peele, Aster, Kent and Eggers, are a couple of Austrian directors who may have slipped under the radar a little. Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz directed the 2014 gem, Goodnight Mommy, a deeply unsettling inversion of the horror genre. They are back with their first English language feature, The Lodge, which again takes your expectations and tears them to shreds.

THE LODGE: A Fun, Subversive Horror Hit
The Lodge (2020) – source: Neon

The Lodge follows the story of a new family as they head up to a mountainside lodge for Christmas break. Richard (Richard Armitage) has invited his new fiancé Grace (Riley Keough) along for the trip, but his two children Aidan (Jaeden Martell) and Mia (Lia McHugh) are not too happy. Six months earlier, after Richard had announced to his wife (Alicia Silverstone) that he wanted a divorce, she had tragically committed suicide. The children blame Grace for their mother’s death, and once they arrive at the isolated lodge things only get worse.

Without giving too much away, the situation at the lodge quickly gets dire, and yet there is no clear reason why any of it is happening or crucially who is to blame. This last point is the crux of the film, and Fiala, Franz and Sergio Casci’s script has enough twists and turns to keep you guessing until the final moments. Like young Mia with her dollhouse, the directors toy with the audience, swiftly pulling out the rug when you think have it all figured out.

Keough Shines Yet Again

At the centre of it all is Keough’s Grace, who the children learn early on, had a disturbing and tragic childhood. Fiala and Franz play cleverly with our preconceived notions of a character such as Grace in a horror film. We begin the film from the children’s perspective, hearing about Grace, silently judging her for tearing apart their family, but never seeing her. Once she appears and the four of them head up to the lodge, the directors shift our focus.

THE LODGE: A Fun, Subversive Horror Hit
source: Neon

Keough is thrust front and centre, and the one-dimensional caricature that we previously saw from the children’s view, slowly slips away. There’s a childlike vulnerability to Grace that Keough really excels at expressing. She is as scared of the children as they are of her, and when Richard leaves the three of them alone, it becomes clear that she is as dependent on him as his children are. Keough and the directors do well to keep us guessing whether Grace is really trying to leave her past behind or if there is something sinister about her intentions with her new family.

The Kids are Alright

Fiala and Franz drew fantastic performances from their two young leads in Goodnight Mommy (Lukas and Elias Schwarz) and they do the same here too. Jaeden Martell has already shown his acting chops in the big budget likes of It and Knives Out, and he once again proves why the studios are knocking at his door so often. Lia McHugh (soon to be seen in Marvel’s Eternals alongside Angelina Jolie) is shockingly good. An early scene in particular, where she painfully mourns her mum is genuinely heart-breaking to watch. The pair of them are entrusted with much more than children normally are in a horror movie, and they carry this added expectation well.

THE LODGE: A Fun, Subversive Horror Hit
source: Neon

One of the only faults that can be levelled at the film is it goes a little long. The third act stretches a little too far, but this is truly a minor issue. Stellar performances from the isolated central three mean that even if it tiptoes bravely towards the one hour fifty mark, it never feels too bloated.

The Lodge: Great Cabin-Fever Horror

Fiala and Franz have once again taken our expectations and twisted them, crafting something rather delightful in the process. They also provide definitive answers, tying ends up creatively and satisfyingly. This is a rarity in horror, especially done this successfully. The breadcrumbs are all there from the very start for those who look carefully, and the rest of us will need a second watch to soak it all in.

In a month where high profile horror remakes have fallen flat (The Grudge, Fantasy Island), it’s a shame that The Lodge wasn’t given the same wide release. It’s inventive, it’s clever and yep it’s pretty damn spooky. If you’re a horror fan, don’t let this one slip under the radar, definitely seek it out.

Will you be checking into the Lodge this month, or have any of the other new horror titles caught your eye? Let us know in the comments below.

The Lodge is on limited release in the US now.


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