Most of the horror in The Lodge is rooted in two elements: faith and grief. Together these themes permeate everything within the film in a horror-drama reminiscent of Ari Aster’s work and the directing duo’s previous outing, Goodnight Mommy.
Young Mia (Lia McHugh) and Aiden (It’s Jaeden Martell, who adopted his mother’s maiden name after formerly being credited as Jaeden Lieberher) are grieving the sudden loss of their mother (Alicia Silverstone) when their dad (Richard Armitage) insists on a holiday getaway to a remote lakeside lodge in December with his new, really, really young girlfriend (Riley Keough). Seeing it as a bonding experience between his new flame and his kids, Richard leaves Grace and the kids alone for a few days, promising to return for Christmas. Soon, unexplainable events start occurring; Gone are the Christmas decorations and personal belongings as a blizzard bears down on the lodgers, cutting them off from the outside world. As unsettling events continue and Grace’s past as the sole survivor of a suicide cult (no, really) become intertwined through the isolation.
The film, which first bowed at Sundance in 2019, moves at a glacial pace for the first hour before ratcheting up the intensity. Even at its peak however, this is still a slow burn, playing psychological games on its subjects and viewers.
While providing some chills, The Lodge doesn’t really have anything remarkable to say, seemingly borrowing from other horrors that have come before it. A miniature dollhouse is reminiscent of Hereditary, and well, any kids in a horror film are bound to be a little on the creepy side. Though this film made its debut before Midsommar, the themes of deep-seeded grief make The Lodge an interesting companion piece. And just like Midsommar, The Lodge will leave viewers divided on exactly where this falls on the horror spectrum.
Filmmakers Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala go for a similar tone and theme as they do in Goodnight Mommy but this time around, there’s far less violence. With lots of long, static shots, repeated looks inside miniature dollhouse and jarring audio cues. Franz and Fiala have co-written the screenplay with Sergio Casci which trades in some of its story logic for brooding atmosphere, in a tale that perhaps raises more questions than it ultimately answers.
A disturbing and unsettling film, The Lodge is a well-made indie thriller that may lack the jump scares and more traditional horror elements but it’s a film that leaves a lasting mark. Martell, McHugh and Keough do most of the heavy-lifting here, with the majority of the film focused on their experiences. Silverstone’s appearance is all too brief because we could all use more Alicia Silverstone in our lives.
Released by Neon in the US and VVS Films in Canada, The Lodge is slowly rolling out in Canadian cinemas, opening in Toronto and Edmonton on February 21, Montreal and Kingston on February 28, Ottawa and Kitchener on March 6, and Vancouver on March 7 with more markets to follow.