12th May2020

‘The Lodge’ Blu-ray Review

by Matthew Turner

Stars: Riley Keough, Jaeden Martell, Lia McHugh, Richard Armitage, Alicia Silverstone, Katelyn Wells, Danny Keough, Lola Reid | Written by Veronika Franz, Severin Fiala, Sergio Casci | Directed by Veronika Franz, Severin Fiala

The first English-language feature from Austrian writer-directors Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala (Goodnight Mommy), The Lodge is a slow-burning chiller that plays some interesting games with the audience.

After a shocking prologue, The Lodge jumps forward six months to find pre-teen Mia (Lia McHugh) and her adolescent brother Aiden (Jaeden Martell) reluctantly travelling to a remote winter cabin with their widowed father Richard (Richard Armitage) and his new girlfriend Grace (Riley Keogh). The children are hostile to Grace because they blame her for the death of their mother (Alicia Silverstone), so tensions are high when a storm comes in and strands Mia and Aiden with their would-be stepmother while Richard is away on business.

Already convinced Grace is “a psychopath”, the children are horrified to discover (via the internet) that she’s actually the sole survivor of a mass suicide by a Christian cult lead by her father. Then creepy things start happening around the lodge – everyone’s possessions mysteriously vanish, (leaving Grace without her medication) and the electricity cuts out, along with their phone service. As things get increasingly weird and disturbing, Aiden seems convinced supernatural forces are at work. But what’s really going on?

Franz and Fiala’s script lays plenty of fertile groundwork in terms of religious imagery around the lodge and Grace’s terrifying background – we see from her flashbacks (or possibly nightmares) just what she went through and we’re increasingly worried, both for her mental state and what the devolution of her mental state might mean for the children.

However, The Lodge plays a clever game with the audience, because the point of view subtly switches once the group reach the house, pulling away from the children in favour of Grace herself. Similarly, there are lots of possible explanations as to what might be going on and the film seems to suggest that there might even be some overlap between them. At any rate, Franz and Fiala have fun playing with audience sympathies, teasing out the mystery for as long as possible, to enjoyable effect.

Keough continues her run of excellent, offbeat choices with a superb performance as Grace that’s simultaneously chilling and sympathetic. Similarly, Martell (who was the snarky teen in Knives Out) is well cast as Aiden and McHugh is suitably sweet and vulnerable as Mia. Armitage, for his part, gets very little to do as Richard, as the plot requires him to be offscreen for the majority of the running time, but he’s effective in his handful of scenes.

Franz and Fiala make strong use of both their remote location and some impressive production design on the lodge itself, giving the film an authentically chilling and chilly atmosphere. This is heightened considerably by Thimios Bakatakis icy cinematography (it’s a good snow horror) and an effective score from Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans.

If there’s a problem with The Lodge, it’s only that there are certain potentially creepy elements that go annoyingly unexplored, most notably a dollhouse back at their father’s place that somehow seems to echo the events in the lodge. Ultimately, that feels like a card the film forgot to play and it’s frustrating as a result. Still, that’s a minor complaint overall, as this is an engaging and gripping chiller enriched by atmospheric direction and strong performances from the three leads.

**** 4/5

The Lodge is available on DVD and Blu-ray, in the US, now from Universal.


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