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