Movie Review: 'The Lodge'
The Lodge, psychological trauma drives horror movie scares in The Lodge
The Lodge gets off to a stunning start and rarely lets up on the oppressive atmosphere and that’s what makes it so brilliant. The Lodge stars Riley Keough as Grace. As a child, Grace was the lone survivor of a doomsday cult, run by her eccentric, Preacher, Father, which committed mass suicide. It appears, though Grace dressed up for the ritual, including Duct Tape across her mouth with the word ‘Sin’ written on it, that Grace was the designated survivor.
It is Grace who captured the mass suicide ritual for posterity, using a camera to record the eerie scene. In an expository scene, we see the video of the bodies, ritualistically laid out underneath purple shrouds, shoes neatly tucked together under each bunk. The movie is coy as to whether Grace was intended to die or if she was indeed designated by her father to live. One thing is for sure, she was deeply traumatized by the event.
The story of The Lodge however, is not about Grace’s time in a cult. Instead, Grace is now a grown up who is about to be married to Richard (Richard Armitage). But, before we get too excited about her new union, we should note that Richard is an author who wrote a book about Grace’s cult and in the process of interviewing her, he fell in love with her and left behind his wife, Laura (Alicia Silverstone) and breaking up their family with their two kids, Aiden (Jaeden Martell) and Mia (Lia McHugh).
Naturally, the kids are not pleased with Dad’s new living arrangement. Things take a turn for the worse from there but I am not going to spoil that detail, though I imagine other critics have. Bottom line, Dad tries to force the kids to bond with Grace by taking them to the family lodge where he’s going to leave the kids and Grace while he goes back to town to work. Bitter kids, new mom figure, a whole lot of accumulating childhood trauma. You can imagine where this is headed and yet, the movie is really clever about getting you there.
The Lodge was directed by Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala, the remarkable directors behind the international thriller, Goodnight Mommy. Franz and Fiala have a good mind for delving into madness and childhood trauma and The Lodge is the two of them truly exploring the space of that particular corner of the collective psyche. The Lodge is essentially an allegory for the way trauma accumulates in the lives of sum until it becomes overwhelming and boils over into… something else.
I am not going to give anything away here. I found The Lodge to be fascinating and I want you to have a pure experience of the movie, as pure as possible while reading reviews of it anyway. The star of the film isn’t even the story anyway. It’s the look, the architecture, and the remarkable camerawork that star throughout The Lodge. I could tell you the entire story in detail and you could still watch this movie and feel the story as deeply as I did because the visual aspect of the movie is essential to how the story is told.
The camerawork, the angles, the lithe and well-controlled movement of the cameras in The Lodge is inextricable to how the story works. This could be any other horror movie in terms of the setting, a remote winter cabin, but with the visual acuity that Franz, Fiala and their team, including Cinematographer Thimios Bakatakis and Production Designer Sylvain Lemaitre, among many others, brilliantly enhances the recognizable tropes.
The story of The Lodge is inventive and exciting with Riley Keough delivering a performance that is both sympathetic and unhinged. Keogh brings an otherworldly quality to her character who is not a villain but carries enough wait with her to appear volatile, especially as her past traumas continue to rise to the surface and grow beyond her control into something akin to madness. Even then, as Grace loses grip with reality, the choices made by the directors keep you guessing throughout as to what is going to happen.
The Lodge carries echoes of Hereditary and director Ari Aster’s wonderful use of architectural detail to enhance the storytelling. There is a brilliantly employed dollhouse in The Lodge and while its part in the final act of the movie is a bit of a stretch, the visual deployment of the dollhouse, and its doll inhabitants, is visually striking and instructive. I cannot praise the production design of The Lodge enough, the look of everything is superb but that dollhouse is brilliantly used.
The Lodge does not rise completely to the level of genius film making that Ari Aster has shown in Hereditary and Midsommar but the echoes of that type of dynamic brilliance do elevate The Lodge within the horror genre. The Lodge is unquestionably a remarkably good horror thriller. That it doesn’t transcend that as the movie I have compared it to has, should in no way be seen as a criticism. The makers of The Lodge are still growing as filmmakers and I imagine they will only get more dynamic as they go on.
The Lodge is in limited theatrical release and will be expanding to on-demand rental services soon.