NFF 2019: THE LODGE Review – Trauma Gives Way To Terror
Hammer's latest offering is serviceable, but fails to leave a lasting impression.
Starring Riley Keough, Jaeden Martell, Lia McHugh, Richard Armitage, Alicia Silverstone
Written by Sergio Casci, Severin Fiala, and Veronika Franz
Directed by Severin Fiala & Veronika Franz
The filmmakers behind 2014’s Goodnight Mommy have returned and this time they have joined forces with none other than Hammer to bring forth a new tale of psychological terror. In keeping with Fiala & Franz’s previous film, The Lodge sees the children (Jaeden Martell & Lia McHugh) going through a lot of emotionally and psychologically. There’s pending divorce of their parents (Richard Armitage, Alicia Silverstone), the prospect of being forced to interact with their father’s new girlfriend, Grace (Riley Keough), and also grieving in the wake of a terrible traumatic family event. That alone would be enough to emotionally devastate anyone, but things only get worse when they end up having to spend Christmas with Grace at their father’s lakeside home in the snow swept mountains.
What follows is a descent into madness as personal conflicts arise, things in the titular lodge mysteriously get moved or go missing, and the snow slowly traps them with one another. I wish I could say that the story was the tightly scripted slow burn slice of horror that it clearly wants to be, but things get a little too repetitive and character moments run a bit too thin once we enter the second and third acts. It doesn’t completely sink the film, but it hampered my enjoyment of it.
This is a shame, because our three primary leads (Keough & the kids) are giving the material their all from start to finish and the film also contains a great smaller turn from Silverstone. Unfortunately, in my opinion, they just aren’t enough to overcome the film’s narrative deficiencies. All of it builds to an incredibly bleak and soul-crushing finale that I feel would hit even harder if what had come before was better fleshed out.
The true stars here are cinematographer Thimios Bakatakis (The Killing of a Sacred Deer) and production designer Sylvain Lemaitre (Turbo Kid). The cinematic beauty and craft on display from both throughout so perfectly compliment one another that it makes the fact that the film left me cold all the more painful. Their combined efforts lay on an intensely thick sense of religious terror and compounding dread that I wish the film had been able to match from a writing standpoint.
On a narrative level, The Lodge just did not work for me. It came off as a nesting doll. The outer layers are beautifully painted in the form of good performances and some striking imagery, but in the end it’s still a hollow exercise. That said, from the acting to the look of the film, there are still things to recommend here, making it a film still worth seeing. Just don’t enter into it with expectations of getting 2019’s Goodnight Mommy or Hereditary. The next great horror film this is not.
The Lodge is a meticulously-crafted psychological horror film, but one that never manages to reach those particular modern cinematic heights. Even so, it remains Hammer’s best film since 2012’s The Woman in Black and I am curious to see how the horror community reacts to it when it arrives early next year. Doubly so, considering the hype that continues to build behind it.
Are you looking forward to The Lodge? Have you already seen it and agree or disagree with this assessment? By all means, let us know in the comments below or on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram! You can also hit me up directly on Twitter @DanielWBaldwin.
The Lodge is a middle-of-the-road psychological horror film with some great performances, haunting imagery, and excellent production design. It’s not phenomenal, but it will still get the job done.