In 2014 writer/directors Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz brought us one the finest horror films of the past decade with Goodnight Mommy. Now teaming up with screenwriter Sergio Casci they are back with a psychological horror that once again proves their place in the horror fall of fame.
The Lodge wraps you a feeling of quiet discomfort from the outset. While slowly building a sense of unease, with a pace that may leave some horror fans cold. However, this is a film less interested in quick shocks and gore than it is the cold reaches of psychological horror. With Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz once more visiting themes of family, trust and subverted innocence. Coupled with a exploration of family separation, loss and the role of step parents in family structure. Creating a film that never fully embraces mainstream horror not unlike their groundbreaking debut Goodnight Mommy. The Lodge is a trip into the deepest reaches of psychological terror, where the void between victim and predator pervades proceedings.
In a similar vein to Ari Asters Hereditary, The Lodge begins rooted in domestic family life. Richard (Richard Armitage) having left his wife Laura (Alicia Silverstone) for new partner Grace (Riley Keough). Consequently breaking his once happy family in two. With their young daughter Mia (Lia McHugh) and teenage son Aiden (Jaeden Martell) caught in the middle of the parental turmoil. While Mia and Aiden both vehemently apposed to their fathers new girlfriend. Both children confused at how their dad could have fallen for a women who was once part of a religious cult.
On the unexpected death of their mother. Both Mia and Aiden are encouraged to spend more time with Grace. Not only helping to dismantling the barriers of indifference and anger the children hold. But also enabling the return to a normal family life. With their traditional Christmas break a lodge in the Mountains providing a perfect opportunity to thaw the ice between Mia, Aiden and Grace. While Grace optimistically views the break as a perfect opening in bonding with Mia and Aiden. The break allowing her to spend two days alone with the children as Richard finishes work in the city in the lead up to Christmas. Her nerves and apprehension outweighed by a need to reconcile the death of their mother with her new role in the family.
However, as the snow gets deeper surrounding the Lodge and the isolation of Mia, Aiden and Grace grows. The Lodge becomes a catacomb for the ghosts of the past and the anger of the present. While the destructive forces of emotional turmoil held within both Grace and the children lead to torment and horror. The joy of Christmas replaced by the nightmare of religious extremism, anger and blame.
The Lodge uses the isolation and cold reaches of its landscape to full effect in building a sense of claustrophobia. The darkness of the wooden hunting Lodge and the glow of its fire clashing with stark white and icy blue of the surrounding landscape. Playing within similar imagery of isolation to that of Misery and The Shining. The outside world disappearing under a sheet of ice and snow. Cinematographer Thimios Bakatakis using colour, light and shadow to powerful effect in drawing the audience into the isolation and fear of a beautiful mountain retreat.
Performances perfectly enhance the sense of unease and trepidation. The doe-eyed innocence of both Mia and Aiden hiding the pain of the loss of their mother. Aiden’s inner thoughts and emotions kept firmly hidden. His cold relationship to everything but his younger sister brilliantly portrayed by Jaeden Martell. While Riley Keough’s Grace is full of vulnerability and fear, her own past still haunting her present, the journey to recovery begun but not yet complete. Her need for love and new beginnings clashing with a past of religious extremism. Keough creating audience empathy that is maintained even as things begin to unravel.
The Lodge provides a deeply unsettling cinematic experience. It’s themes of loss, anger, faith and human manipulation crawling under your skin. Its icy blast of pure psychological horror grabbing hold and not letting go long after its conclusion. Many will draw parallels with the 2018 Hereditary in style and tempo, however, the Lodge is pure human terror. Actions, fears and manipulation sitting front and centre in creating a truly stunning piece of cinematic horror.