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THE LODGE (2019)

Extremely disturbing thriller finds young Aidan Hall (Jaeden Martell) and his little sister Mia (Lia McHugh), dealing not only with the separation of their parents, but their father’s (Richard Armitage) new girlfriend Grace (Riley Keough), who was the sole survivor of a religious cult mass suicide as a girl. Their mother (Alicia Silverstone) kills herself over the collapse of the marriage and only months later, the kids are told they are going to the family lodge for the holidays and they have to stay alone with Grace for a few days…and that dad and Grace plan to marry. If tensions between the three aren’t enough, strange things start occurring in the house, such as the disappearance of all their belongings and most of the food. As tensions and fear escalate between them, who or what is tormenting the already troubled trio?

The Lodge is from Goodnight Mommy duo Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala, from their script with Sergio Casci (The Caller). It does a really great job of setting up tension long before we arrive at the lodge. The kids not only have a dislike for Grace to begin with, but obviously blame her for the suicide of their mother. The kids, being from a strong Christian background, believe their mother will not reach heaven for committing the sin of suicide. Again, in their eyes, it’s Grace’s fault. In the age of Google, the kids know all about Grace’s cult past and it is a clever way for us to find out as well. It creates tension between the audience and Grace, before we even meet her. The early scenes in the remote lodge are uncomfortable, as Grace tries to bond with these kids and the strong religious undercurrent in the house makes the emotionally scarred Grace uneasy as well. If that isn’t enough, strange things begin to occur. They wake up to find their belongings and all the Christmas decorations gone. There is barely any food left, the generator and heat are out, phone’s are dead and Grace’s medication and dog are gone too. Franz and Fiala already have the tension cranked up to 11, now there is another element thrown in. Who or what is toying with these three? Is it the kids getting a perceived revenge? Is Grace a lot more unbalanced than we though?…or is there something supernatural going on? It’s an unsettling and disturbing ride to the truth and the filmmakers keep us guessing along the way. Even without all the plot elements, Franz and Fiala create tension and atmosphere simply with their camera lens. Even stationary shots keep us on edge, as do the continual shots of Mia’s dollhouse at home, which seems to mirror what’s going on at the lodge. Let’s not forget there are some disturbing dream sequences as well, as Grace starts to unravel, hearing her father’s voice in the night. It adds up to a very chilling time and comes to a conclusion that is unsettling and will stay with you for quite a while. We get our answers and it is unnerving to be sure. The film looks great as photographed by Thimios Bakatakis and there is a very spooky score by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans to add to the atmosphere.

The cast are excellent with a knockout performance by Riley Keough as Grace. We get all this negative and disturbing information about her before we even meet her. Once we do, Keough presents her as a very likable and sympathetic woman who just wants to be accepted by her boyfriend’s children. We feel very bad for her when the kids reject her at first and certainly when circumstances start to pull apart a woman already working hard to overcome past trauma. Keough is simply fantastic. Richard Armitage is solid as dad, Richard. He doesn’t seem like a bad guy. He loves his kids and just wants them to get along with his new wife-to-be. Alicia SIlverstone is impressive in her brief screen-time and we feel her pain with only a few scenes. Jaeden Martell and Lia McHugh are excellent as well, as Aidan and Mia. They handle a variety of difficult scenes very soundly and even get us to see past their anger and hurt to the likable kids underneath. A great cast.

This flick may not be as terrifying as early word wants us to believe, but neither was the duos’ Goodnight Mommy. That being said, it is a very chilling thriller and the constant atmosphere of foreboding gets under your skin. It is an unnerving and unsettling ride. The Lodge has strong performances, including a home run job by Riley Keough, who overcomes the initial vilifying by the the Hall kids to be likable and sympathetic…then scary when she starts to unravel at what’s going on. While on that subject, the filmmakers keep us guessing and uncomfortable, as we try to discover who, or what, has turned a bad situation into a nightmare. A very effective and disturbing movie.

-MonsterZero NJ


Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) Christmas gifts, as this is a Christmas movie after all!











When I was a kid in the 70s, this clash of horror movie icons was a film that I wanted to see happen very badly. Obviously as a ten-year-old, I didn’t understand the concept of different studios and all that would need to occur to make such a film a reality, but would loved to have seen such a film actually happen. With revisiting the films of both characters recently, I decided to use my Photoshop skills to do a faux poster rendition, in the 70s style, of what such a film might have been like if Hammer and AIP had collaborated. Enjoy!



poster art: MonsterZero NJ




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U.S. release title: Count Dracula And His Vampire Bride

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Christopher Lee appeared in one last film in the Hammer Films Dracula series, though, he would play the role one last time in the French film Dracula père et fils in 1976. Sadly, it is the weakest of the films, ending the series on a very mundane note. This film does have sentimental importance to me, as I saw it on a double bill with Amicus’ Vault Of Horror at the Showboat Cinema in Edgewater, N.J. when it was finally released in the U.S. in 1978 as Count Dracula And His Vampire Bride. It is nostalgically the only Hammer Dracula I saw in a theater and my recent revisit gravely disappointed me compared to how I remembered it.

Alan Gibson returned to direct as did Don Houghton return to write and despite only being their second Dracula film, the gas has already run out. They give the story more of a James Bond twist with Dracula disguising himself as a reclusive, millionaire CEO who is plotting a hideous revenge on all mankind using a combination of Satanic ritual and biological warfare…what? Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) and granddaughter Jessica (now Absolutely Fabulous’ Joanna Lumley) return to thwart The Count and save the world from a hideous fate, along with Dracula A.D. 1972‘s Inspector Murray (Michael Coles). Unknown to Van Helsing, though, Dracula still has a jones for his granddaughter. Yup, that’s it.

The script is obviously very weak, turning the fierce Count into a sub-par James Bond villain complete with evil plot to destroy the world, hidden lair and having him gleefully pontificate his plan to Van Helsing, who, obviously, serves in the James Bond role. He even spares Van Helsing’s life so he can watch the plan unfold, which is, of course, his undoing. The thought that Dracula would create a plague to wipe out his food source is ludicrous and Van Helsing’s pondering that it may be a final revenge/act of suicide is not an acceptable explanation. It’s silly. Dracula has had too many opportunities to stay dead, if he wanted to. Despite Dracula A.D. 1972 being somewhat fun and energeticGibson directs with a leaden hand here and the action is quite routine and ho-hum despite the filmmakers saying “PG be damned” and loading up on the blood, gore and nudity. The FX are so-so and even the selection of Hammer hotties is not up to par with the last few flicks, despite that the James Bond-ish angle would require a bevy of beauties to really take it the whole nine yards. The cinematography by Brian Probyn is unremarkable and has a TV movie look and John Cacavas delivers a forgettable score. The effort here is as dead as it’s vampires and one wonders why they bothered at all, as no one seemed to really want to do this. No suspense, no atmosphere, and despite healthy servings of gore and nudity, nothing memorable about the action. Even Dracula and Van Helsing’s final confrontation is half-hearted and unimaginative. It has a very ‘let’s get this over with’ feeling to it.

This is not only the first film with a weak cast, but the first film where Lee really appears to be tired of all this. He isn’t bad and has some fearsome moments, but compared to the rest of the films, he really seems to be just going through the paces. Another testament of his talent that even so, he is still effective. Cushing is the only one to seem to really be giving his all as Van Helsing, but that is why he is the legend he is and he didn’t have to go through this for the last seven years like Lee. Lumley is given little to do and doesn’t have the spunky sex-appeal of Stephanie Beacham’s Jessica from the previous installment. Dracula’s minions and vampire girls are all generic and unremarkable and Coles plays Murray as woodenly as he did last time.

Overall, this is a really weak effort and one wonders if it was just one last cash grab to milk a little more out of the series. It has an odd James Bond style plot…which is ironic, as Lee would become a true James Bond villain the following year in The Man With The Golden Gun and upstage Roger Moore…and yet none of that series’ buoyancy. There is plenty of nudity and gore, but used unimaginatively, the exploitation elements aren’t effective. It’s the first time the impeccable Lee seemed uncomfortable in the role and like he didn’t want to be there…which he didn’t. It’s an unfortunately, sad farewell to a classic series that maintained a certain quality almost to the end.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 fangs and it only gets that for sentimental reasons.

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