Caroline Groff- Contributing Writer
A trip to a snowy cabin in the middle of nowhere with a woman and her soon to be stepchildren seems to be tense enough. Add in a cult background and some suspicious activity in the house, and you’ve got the isolating paranoia of “The Lodge”. Writer and director duo Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala, known for their 2014 film “Goodnight Mommy”, seem to have connecting theme of familial tension and delusion in both projects. This entry is much more set influenced but brings the talent of the actors to the forefront.
In the briefest of explanations, “The Lodge” follows Grace, played by Riley Keough, as she goes on a trip with her boyfriend Richard, played by Richard Armitage, and his two children. The older brother Aiden, played by “It” star Jaeden Martell, and the younger sister Mia, played by Lia McHugh, are not keen on the idea of the trip, especially after the recent suicide of their mother. Along with the discovery of Grace’s past involvement with a cult and the looming implications of her mental health, the children are weary of the perceived outsider. Especially after Richard reveals they are planning to get married. After Richard gets called away on business, Grace is left to watch over the children and hopefully get to know them. The plan doesn’t pan out and strange occurrences and a power outage strike the trio as the days drag on in their solitude.
It's easy to compare this film to some of the most recent additions to the horror or horror-adjacent genre. Most obviously on display is its resemblance to Ari Aster’s “Hereditary”, with its dissection of a family dynamic, unclear source of the creepiness taking place, and the set design itself. Both films take great care in offering up a house to represent more than just a shelter but showcase the relationships of the family. The main difference here being the remoteness and confinement brought on by the backdrop of snowstorms. Even with the clear similarities, they verge into completely different trips about halfway through. “The Lodge’s tighter consistency marks it out as the finer of the pair in many ways, a film that manages to burrow its way under your skin and stay there right through to the horrifying end,” said Benjamin Lee in his review for The Guardian. As the audience begins to question the sanity of the film’s characters as they are stuck in the cabin, it's unclear exactly who we are supposed to be afraid of. This film solidifies itself as an entity outside of those before it.
It's also easy to find great things to say about the movie, but the performances of its actors are the most important. The acting is attention grabbing and unnerving. Keough’s performance as Grace is the shining gem of the film. Her ability is perfect in the sense that she is never willing to give much away. “Her stoic face is too difficult for the children or audience to properly get a sense of her intentions,” says Monica Castillo in her review of the film. This detachment is hard to define as either sinister or simply aloof and adds to the confusion and mystery the film creates. The performances of both children bounce off her subtle mannerisms well. Lia McHugh in particular is able to give an emotionally complex and impressively intriguing performance as a daughter yearning for the presence of her mother and, consequently, resenting what feels like the replacement.
This film builds so much tension and doubt that by the final shot, you feel almost in a state of shock by the time the credits roll. Yet, even when the ending hits you in the gut and refuses to let up, it still feels as if there was something missing. Something not explored in the last 15 minutes that would have elevated that last notch. The ending is devastating, but somewhat sadistically predictable about 40 minutes into the movie. Even with this minor indicator, seeing the ending coming doesn’t make it any less disturbing. Without giving anything away, the verdict is to go see this movie, but just know that your darkest suspicions are probably right.