In 2014 writer/directors Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz brought us one the best 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. With ‘The Lodge’ wrapping you a feeling of quiet discomfort and unease from the outset; embracing the coldest reaches of horror. As Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz revisit themes of family, trust and subverted innocence. By creating a film that never fully embraces mainstream horror, as the audience is taken on a trip into the depths of psychological terror. Where the void between victim and predator is never clear nor simple in construct.
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). His actions splitting his once happy family in two; their young daughter, Mia (Lia McHugh) and teenage son Aiden (Jaeden Martell) caught in the middle of the parental turmoil. In turn, stoking the flames of both Mia and Aiden’s dislike for their father’s new girlfriend; both confused at their dads love for a woman who was once part of a religious cult.
However, on the tragic death of their mother, both Mia and Aiden are encouraged to spend more time with Grace. Helping to dismantle the barriers of indifference and anger the children hold while enabling a return to family life. The family’s traditional Christmas break at a secluded lodge in the Mountains providing a perfect opportunity to thaw the ice. However, while Grace optimistically views the break as an ideal opportunity to bond with Mia and Aiden. Her nerves and apprehension also take hold as she tries to forge a new relationship with the children. And as the snow gets deeper and the family’s isolation grows. Mia, Aiden and Grace find their 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 to that of both Misery and The Shining. As the outside world disappears 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.
Meanwhile, performances perfectly enhance the deeply rooted sense of unease and trepidation. The doe-eyed innocence of both Mia and Aiden hiding the pain and loss of their mother, with 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.
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 gripping tight and not letting go long after its conclusion. And while many may draw parallels with the Hereditary in both style and tempo, The Lodge is a different beast entirely as human actions, fears and manipulation sit front and centre in a truly stunning piece of horror.