Lodge review Riley Keough

Year: 2019
Director(s): Severin Fiala, Veronika Franz
Writer(s): Severin Fiala, Veronika Franz, Sergio Casci
Region of Origin: USA
Rating: R
Color, 100 mins

Synopsis: A soon-to-be stepmom is snowed in with her fiancé’s two children at a remote holiday village. Just as relations begin to thaw between the trio, some strange and frightening events take place. (Source)

After watching Goodnight Mommy and now, The Lodge, I can confidently say that directors Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz have got some serious mommy issues. Their latest continues to delve into parental anxiety, but is now mixed in with 200% more culty religious guilt. I can understand how this particular type of horror won’t appeal to a lot of people, but those attuned to spiritual dread will find this a horrifying experience. Add to that a penchant for claustrophobic atmosphere and what we have here is a behemoth of existential dread. If I’m being honest, the film’s ideas could’ve been pushed a bit further, but as is, is still one hell of a ride. It’s a psychological trip that doesn’t merely get under our skin but burrows deep into our psyche.

In the aftermath of their mother’s suicide, Aidan (Jaeden Martell) and Mia (Lia McHugh) cling to each other amidst unbearable grief. Their father Richard (Richard Armitage) does his best to be there for them, but the kids hold his new, younger girlfriend, Grace (Riley Keough), responsible for their family tragedy. For Christmas, Richard and Grace coerce the kids into a vacation. Their destination is the family lodge, located in remote, mountaintop village. As she’s soon to be their stepmother, it’ll be a chance for Grace to finally spend some time with Aiden and Mia, and hopefully help the family move on. When they arrive, Richard is called back into work but promises to be back on Christmas Day. Grace offers to stay behind and wait with Aidan and Mia. Once alone, tensions run high. They wake up one day snowed in, without water or power, and all of their personal belongings are missing. The misfortune triggers childhood trauma for Grace, putting her at a standoff with Aiden and Mia as the lodge turns into a purgatory of sorts for the trio. 

Above all, Fiala and Franz have created something meant to be more experience than narrative. Despite numerous plot threads dangling in the air, what the filmmakers are more interested in, is wringing as much dread and sinister religious overtones as possible. This is a film designed to make us squirm in our seats as its claustrophobic grip slowly tightens around our chests. Capturing the moody lodge in stark lighting and deep shadows, the characters’ surroundings feels oppressive, with Grace’s religious traumas manifesting in intense ways. Coupled with Aiden and Mia’s own spiraling struggles, the plot’s locked room structure renders a cacophony of psychological torture. Fiala and Franz’s stylish restraint is not to be taken for granted. A hallucinatory rhythm compounds by the minute and numerous twists and turns showcase the breadth of human cruelty and frailty. This is not for the weak of heart, but undeniably the definition of existential horror. 

Lodge review Lia McHugh Jaeden Lieberher

Rendering the film’s inescapable grip, is a trio of performances that are as suffocating as the lodge’s dense shadows. Riley Keough leads the charge here, with a character that is never quite who we picture her to be. Keough turns in someone who has definitively been marked and changed by her trauma. There are traces of it through every step, despite her struggle to break free. Her descent into madness is the crux of the story, and she sells it with primal desperation. Lia McHugh and Jaeden Martell turn in kids who feel more human than standard creepy kids. The two create an intense bond very quickly, and their relationship acts as the film’s emotional foundation. As their actions transform who they are and keep us guessing, they cover a wide range of emotional anguish.

The Lodge doesn’t feel like a fully formed narrative, but that also doesn’t feel like the point. This is the work of two filmmakers exorcising their demons at twenty-four frames per second. We’re along for the ride, and they don’t pull any emotional punches. It’s this sincerity that breaks through the narrative limitations, giving all of the unparalleled style a substance that is felt on a deeper level. As a work of abstract emotional catharsis, Fiala and Franz’s film is a gripping experience of existential fear and spiritual guilt. There aren’t many films interested in blending these two subjects, and that’s what ultimately makes this effort cut through the noise.