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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!











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Though marketed as a horror film, especially with a title that implies some sort of supernatural threat, flick is more of a survival thriller focusing on a small group of people during what appears to be some kind of pandemic. As the film opens, we find Paul (Joel Edgerton), living in his father-in-law Bud’s house in the middle of the woods, along with his wife Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) and his son Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.). As the story opens, Bud (David Pendleton) is infected, Paul euthanizes him and sets his body on fire. While still suffering from their loss, a man (Christopher Abbott) breaks into their house one night. Captured, he says his name is Will and is only looking for supplies for his family. Paul and Sarah invite Will, his wife Kim (Riley Keough) and son Andrew (Griffin Robert Faulkner) to come live with them, seeing strength in numbers. But, when it is believed that little Andrew might be infected, paranoia and fear take over and threatens to destroy this safe haven in the woods.

Written and directed by Trey Edward Shults this is an intense and sometimes violent little movie about fear, paranoia and what lengths folks will go to survive. Going in without the horror movie expectations, one can enjoy this flick for what it is. There are some horror elements, as the sickness isn’t pretty, there is some brutal violence and Travis has some very unsettling nightmares with some spooky imagery. The characters appear to be normal people in a frightening situation and none are bad guys or unlikable, just some do extreme things to, in their minds, ensure their survival. It’s no secret these folks will turn on each other and Shults keeps the film tense until they do. He keeps the audience on edge with a sense that death is always lurking outside the house, whether it be this ominous disease or other humans with bad intent. He also never let’s you completely trust Will and Kim, as Paul and Sarah never quite do. Yes, we’ve seen it before, but the writer/director makes it work by focusing on the effects of the situation on a small isolated group instead of what might be going on in more populated areas. It works well and can be unsettling at times, even with the subject of pandemics and infections being common ground right now. There are a few questions and unresolved plot points as the credits roll. After Bud’s death it seems hard to believe that Paul and family would so quickly agree to bring strangers into their home, despite the good intentions. There is a violent encounter with two armed men that at first seems like it might have further impact, but it never does. There is also the implication that coming-of-age Travis might have an attraction to the pretty Kim and vice-versa, but it goes nowhere after the initial scene that introduces the notion. Aside from these small matters Trey Edward Shults delivers a taunt thriller which keeps one unnerved even if you know certain things are coming. Aiding him is some nice cinematography by Drew Daniels, which takes advantage of the large shadow filled house and a fitting score from Brian McOmber.

There is a good cast here, too. Edgerton is a strong lead as the cautious, though somewhat kind-hearted Paul. He makes some tough decisions to protect his family, but is far from a bad man and hasn’t lost his humanity. Christopher Abbott is good as Will. He gives the character just enough uncertainty, so we never quite trust him to makes us as uneasy as Paul. Kelvin Harrison Jr. shines as Travis. Travis is sometimes the moral center of the story, though his ominous nightmares make us unsettled as to what the future holds and the actor conveys that this is also the same with Travis, himself, a youth growing up isolated in a dangerous world. In support Carmen Ejogo is solid as Paul’s loving and strong willed wife, Sarah. Riley Keough is also good as Will’s wife Kim, as is Griffin Robert Faulkner as their young son Andrew.

Once you get past the notion that this is a horror film, you can still enjoy an intense thriller about people trying to survive in a deadly environment. They’re trying to keep their humanity when their fellow humans are just as dangerous as the disease they are trying to avoid. It’s intense, atmospheric and brutally violent at times. It may not be the most original flick in terms of story and comes with a title that raises horror film expectations, but does used the pandemic fear scenario very well and is an effective little thriller on it’s own.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 bullets!