the lodge | severin fiala | veronika franz | sergio casci | alicia silverstone | riley keough | richard armitage | nightmares film festival | nff | drama | thriller | united kingdom | psychological | religion | jaeden martell | lia mchugh | rebecca faulkenberry
Film: The Lodge
Director: Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz
Writer: Sergio Casci, Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz
Starring: Alicia Silverstone, Riley Keough and Richard Armitage
This was a film that was on my radar from early in the 2019. I knew that it was doing well at film festivals so it was one that I was waiting to get released. I lucked out when I saw that at the Nightmares Film Festival it was showing for its regional premiere. It was one that I knew I was going to see for sure. I then got to see again on the big screen at the Gateway Film Center when it had a larger release as well. The synopsis is a soon-to-be stepmom is snowed in with her fiancé’s two children at a remote holiday cabin. Just as relations begin to thaw between the trio, some strange and frightening events takes place.
We start with a mother, Laura (Alicia Silverstone), at home with her two children. Her older son is Aidan (Jaeden Martell) and daughter Mia (Lia McHugh). She has a dollhouse which we learn is modeled after the cabin that they go during the winter. Laura calls her ex-husband, Richard (Richard Armitage) to bring the children over. She’s making sure that his new girlfriend won’t be there.
She was told that Grace (Riley Keough) wouldn’t be, but we see a glimpse of her in a window and then Laura sees her sneaking out the back gate. Through some subtle things, we know that Laura wants to get back together with Richard and is devastated to learn that he plans to ask Grace to marry him. This leads to a traumatic event that rocks this family to the core.
Richard tries to get his children to come around to Grace, but they blame her for what happened. Through them snooping, we learn that Grace has a dark past as her father was the head of a cult and she is the only survivor. Richard tries to have her over for Thanksgiving, but the children lose their minds so he rethinks it.
This all leads to his plan for them to go up to the cabin for Christmas. He still has to work so his plan is to take them up, get them acclimated and then go back, forcing the three to work it out in isolation. There’s definitely some awkwardness as Laura decorated the place and there’s still things that belonged to her there. They do seem to be making progress until one morning, they wake up to everything they brought is now missing.
Now I have to say that this is a film that I tried to stay even keel on before my first viewing, but there was still had quite a bit of hype for it. Personally I would say that it lived up to it and it held up after a second viewing well. It is such a haunting tale that has a brooding atmosphere akin to Hereditary or Midsommar.
There’s an interesting family dynamics here. We have children who are living in broken home after their parents are separated. They want them to get back together, which is exactly what Laura wants as well. Richard has moved on though. My girlfriend who saw this with me brought up an interesting point. We see that the children do not like Grace and blame her for what happened. I didn’t pick up on this, but she tossed out the idea that Richard had an affair with Grace so that feeling of blame makes sense. Something else interesting about Grace is she’s a little bit awkward due to her past. Being raised in a cult, she has lasting effects from it. The social norms don’t really seem to be there and it is reflected in things that she says at times.
What I really want to delve into next is the religious aspect here. The cult Grace was in was religious based. They took it to the extreme. When they get to the cabin, there’s a creepy picture of a nun that looks stern looming over the dining room table as well as a giant cross. Grace is now at the least agnostic due to the trauma. As she descends into madness, she falls back into her religious path for comfort, which I find quite intriguing. It can be heard through the voice of her father. It makes you wonder for a good portion of the film, is she really hearing it or is it in her head.
Going along with this idea, what is happing flirts with being supernatural or is it real. I really dug this mystery if I’m going to be perfectly honest. The morning they wake up and everything was before they got there freaked me out. Then every time Grace looks at a certain clocks that shows the date, it keeps going back to the same one. This is unnerving and makes her start to think they could have died and are in purgatory. Now this is I guess is a bit of spoiler, but there’s a journey to figure out the truth.
That takes me to the pacing of this one, which the runtime clocks in at 100 minutes. I heard the saying that 90 minutes and below are free, anything over that you really have to prove to me it needs to be there. I completely think this film needed that extra time. There was a couple times my jaw actually dropped in shock. I was sucked into this film and trying to figure out what happened. There were things I even missed that were shared with me later that made me like this one even more. With that said, I thought it was paced very well and I like how it ended as I’m down for bleak endings. During my second viewing I was getting bored and thought that it might run too long. It is after a reveal that I didn’t remember though that erased that so I still agree with this assessment.
Moving to the acting of the film, it is definitely on point. Keough was great as the lead here. I love how subdued she plays the character, but as things around her start to break down we see her descend into madness. She’s mentally disturbed from her past and with the stress, we see her reverting. It had me hooked and I feel horrible for her. It doesn’t help they’re snowed in and the power is out. The two children don’t like her so it adds to the isolation. Martell and McHugh did really well as the children also. Martell was made famous from the two It movies but I have to say I’m quite impressed with him for his age. Silverstone and Armitage are solid in support here as well.
As for the effects of the film, we really don’t need a lot of them as it isn’t that type of film. To be honest though, the realism of them being stranded in this cabin felt real. We do get some practical things later on that looked good. It feels cold, which is good. If anything though, the cinematography is what really helps to drive some of the tension. We get a lot of slow zoom ins and outs. It lingers on things which make it feel even more unnerving. I was really impressed there to be honest.
The last thing to cover would be the soundtrack. It really helps to build that sense of dread and uneasy feeling as well. There’s quite a bit of string instruments, which is par for the course when you’re dealing with a movie with this type of brooding feeling. It would actually be a score I would like to add to my collection while I’m writing to be honest.
Now with that aside, despite my high expectations, I felt that this one lived up to them. It is such a haunting film of loss and I really like how they incorporate that this could be supernatural or that it could not be. It is done in a way that doesn’t feel like a cheat as well, as we see little hints along the way. After the second viewing, I still agree with this even though some things are a bit farfetched. The pacing works to build tension and I love how everything ended. The acting was great across the board, which can be tough sticking three characters alone for most of the film. There’s not a lot in the way of effects, but it doesn’t necessarily need them. It is shot well and the soundtrack fit for what was needed as well. Overall I’d say this is a really good movie and it stuck with me after checking out it. I would recommend this to horror and non-horror fans for sure. I will warn you, this is a heavy movie and there are a lot of emotions here. My rating also came up slightly as this is a damn near perfect film.
My Rating: 9.5 out of 10
I wanted to do this section here as there’s a lot in this movie. The first thing is that the event I hinted at is that Laura kills herself. I tossed out the theory that my girlfriend suggested that Richard had an affair with Grace while writing his book about cults. There’s a subtle hint from Aidan while he is going through his father’s computer for information and he shares that with Mia. Laura and the children want her to get back together with Richard, but when that isn’t the case, Laura kills herself.
Richard keeps pushing his children to get closer to Grace where Aidan comes up with a plan to I’m assuming scare her off. This is introduced much like in Hereditary through Mia’s dollhouse. We see it is modeled after the lodge they will be staying on.
Their plan is drug Grace with a sleeping pill. They take down all of the decorations, but it was set up with a gas heater being used while they’re watching the movie. Grace asks if it is safe, but the reason it is there is for Aidan to claim they died from asphyxiation. They’re trying to tell Grace they’re in purgatory. She isn’t buying it, but she also is on medication which also has been hidden. It doesn’t help that Grace has some scary dreams of what she dealt with that are getting worse under the stress that is around her. She is sleeping walking and the children are adding to that as well.
After the second viewing, I looked at my girlfriend to say that I hated these children. They’re horrible in what they’re doing, but it is interesting is that all of these characters are horrible. Richard presumable cheated on his wife with having relations with the subject of his book and he knew she was troubled. Grace is troubled so I feel bad what the children did to her, but again, it seems she slept with a married man. Aidan and Mia are really to blame for all of the tragic events so there’s sick satisfaction in me to see Richard killed in front of them. It is horrible for me to say, but I stand by it. This really is a deep movie and aside from I don’t think everything the children did is plausible, this heavy movie really affected me and I love it.