Starring Riley Keough, Jaden Martell, and Richard Armitage
Written by: Sergio Casci, Severin Fiala, and Veronika Franz
Directed by: Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz
Aidan and Mia’s mother kills herself after their father asks to finalize the divorce. They are sent to live with their father, Richard, who desperately wants them to like his girlfriend, Grace – whom he plans to marry. Six months later, the foursome spend Christmas vacation at a desolate winter lodge. The kids are still quietly hostile to Grace, even after dad goes back to town for a couple days work before Christmas.
It’s not entirely clear, but I think Richard is an author. He met Grace while writing a book about a religious cult, led by her father. When she was twelve, the cult committed suicide and Grace was the only one left alive, which leads the kids to believe she is a “psychopath.” However, if Richard is a writer, I have no idea why he can’t work from the lodge.
Anyway, so the kids and Grace are left alone, miles from town. After a couple days, the kids slowly start to warm up to Grace. Mia engages in cautious conversation, and Aidan brings her a mug of cocoa. Things take a dark turn when the power goes out and the pipes freeze. The fridge is completely cleaned out of food, leaving the group a few cans of soup and a box of crackers to eat. Clothing begins to disappear: first Grace’s, then Aidan and Mia’s. By the end of the film, it appears that everything in the kids’ bedroom is gone – the toys, the furniture, the beds. Also missing are Grace’s unspecified pills. At first I thought they were anti-anxiety pills, but by the end of the film I started to think they may have been anti-psychotics.
Cabin fever sets in. Maybe the lodge is being haunted by the dead mother. Maybe Mia’s dollhouse – which is an exact replica of the lodge they are now staying in – has something to do with all this. Maybe Mia’s doll is possessed. Maybe the three of them are dead and stuck in purgatory. Or maybe Mia and Aidan are engaged in a very intricate prank. It is never entirely clear, but whatever it is, it’s not good.
The Lodge is a slow-burn film. Even the climax is rather quiet and controlled. This isn’t a “jump scares” film. It is bleak as fuck. The icy environs the eponymous lodge is in certainly don’t help (though it is exquisitely beautiful), but the story itself is bleak. Although there are no definite answers, no ending could possibly be a happy one.
I wanted a little more exposition from this film. It was a slow, plodding movie, so I feel like more exposition could have been added. The mother’s suicide was sudden. She kills herself in the first few minutes of the film, without pretense. She hates her ex’s new girlfriend, but suicide seems a drastic decision, especially since the audience doesn’t know her. I also would have liked more information on Grace’s religious upbringing, why she didn’t kill herself with the rest of her cult, and why the kids thought she was a psychopath.
Despite these minor wishes, The Lodge was well-plotted and didn’t drag, which is tough to do with such a slow-burn horror film. The three leads – Riley Keough, Jaden Martell, and Lia McHugh – were intense without being campy. And of course, the snowy mise-en-scene added to the intensity, the isolation, and, strangely, the claustrophobia of the film.
The Lodge opens in limited release February 7th.
Slow-burn dynamic makes for a chilling horror film
After their mom’s suicide, Aidan and Mia are sent to live with their father, who takes them on a Christmas vacation to a remote snowy lodge. His girlfriend, Grace, joins them, and stays with the kids while dad goes back into town for work. Things become dire when the power goes out, the pipes freeze, and the food and clothing disappears. What kind of hell are these three trapped in?