The Lodge (2019)
Written & Directed by Veronika Franz & Severin Fiala
There are lots of familiar elements at play in The Lodge. You have a stepmother figure whose purpose in the story is ambiguous, possibly malevolent. There’s a snowed-in cabin where the power goes out, cutting the lines of communication. Sleep is disturbed by noises in the night and troubling dreams of the landscape. There are even two kids who might be up to no good. All the pieces are there, but the execution just ultimately stumbles, and nothing ever comes together. The Lodge has so much promise but fails to deliver on that promise.
Grace (Riley Keough) is engaged to Richard, a now single father whose ex-wife has died. His two children, Aidan (Jaden Martell) and Mia, are vocally against having their mother replaced. Richard decides to dump his bride to be and the kids at a family cabin for the Christmas holidays while he works back in the city. He figures the trio will be forced to bond and get along over late-night movies and hot cocoa. There is just a massive elephant in the room that the kids want to address. Grace was raised in a cult whose entire membership, except for her, died in a Jonestown style mass suicide. Her seclusion in this remote wintry landscape and the hostility of the children begin to push Grace down a dark path, and she believes her father, the head of the cult, is coming back for her.
My entire experience of watching The Lodge was noticing the similarities it had to other films and how those things were better than the movie I was watching. There is a recurring motif of Mia’s dollhouse and the figures inside paralleling events happening in the picture. It was so emphasized that I couldn’t help but think of Hereditary and its use of dioramas that reflect the traumas of the protagonist. Those felt essential to Hereditary, but the dollhouse in The Lodge just feels awkward and out of place. You could cut it out of the film, and the story would lose nothing.
This movie was made by the same directors as Goodnight, Mommy, which The Lodge seems to crib a lot from. In Goodnight, Mommy, you have twin brothers becoming paranoid that their mother, wrapped under bandages and recovering from plastic surgery, is really their mother. That same paranoia informs The Lodge but is not developed enough in its own way to feel apart from the first feature. In fact, The Lodge almost feels like an English-language revision of their own movie. Even the ending has the same bleak wrap up so that I was left confused about why the pair also made this film.
Riley Keough is very good, though. She is an actress who is presenting so much depth in the roles she is taking in the last few years. I think of her characters in Under the Silver Lake, Logan Lucky, It Comes At Night, and Fury Road, and they are all so different yet played with expertise by Keough. In The Lodge, she is tasked with playing things with a visible restraint; she’s a traumatized woman trying to live with “normal” people but finding her past clawing back at her. By the end of the film, we get an entirely different woman, transformed by what goes down inside that snowy cabin.
The Lodge, regrettably, is a perfectly passable film. It is not worth your effort to seek it out, but if you happen to come across it and have the time, a watch won’t hurt. I can’t imagine returning to this picture, though, because its subtext feels completely shallow, there’s no way an audience could misinterpret the themes or what is going on. There’s nothing to analyze or reflect on, but it’s not a dumb horror film you can shut your brain off while watching.