Directed by: Veronika Franz & Severin Fiala
Written by: Sergio Casci, Veronika Franz, Severin Fiala
Starring: Riley Keough, Jaeden Martell, Lia McHugh, Alicia Silverstone, Richard Armitage
With our obsession with serial killers and cult leaders, we often forget the victims of their actions. They are mentioned in numerical fashion because of the psychological fascination we have with the men who cause all of the pain. The Lodge allows us to watch how one person deals with the trauma of their past and how even the most hurtful experiences can resurrect themselves.
Aidan (Jansen Martell) and Mia (Lia McHugh) have been dealing with the separation of their parents for quite some time. They detest their father’s new girlfriend, Grace (Riley Keough), and now have to spend Christmas with them at this lodge. Once they arrive, the father has to head out for work leaving Aidan, Mia, and Grace having to spend an abundant amount of awkward time together.
The setup and eventual progression of the story seek to drag the audience into the most awkward conversations anyone could have with other folks. In the beginning, it focuses on Aidan and Mia and how they deal with the relationship between their parents and how Grace seemingly has been the one who has ruined it all. A typical perspective for children to have as they look for reasons why their parents do not love each other anymore. However, in this specific circumstance, they have enough evidence to suggest that Grace had something to do with the separation, with the amount of time that has passed and how long their father has been dating Grace. Specific details are not mentioned, but it can be surmised. The focus on the children and the lack of seeing Grace makes her a bit of a mystery. The children learn about her upbringing and how she was raised in a cult and mysteriously was the only person to survive.
With all of this fact-gathering, we still have not actually seen Grace. It’s not until they prepare to go to the lodge and the kids enter the car, do we see Grace. Someone who looks incredibly harmless but has a wickedly terrifying past. The build-up to the initial introduction to Grace and their experience in the lodge shows incredible directorial skill. It builds tension on the verge of snapping at the smallest interaction, I just wished the rest of the story followed up and delivered something worth its first two-thirds. As with any horror film, inexplicable events begin to happen and the backdrop of a snowy lodge in the middle of nowhere creates the opportunity for mayhem to ensue.
Through the character of Grace, The Lodge looks at someone fighting off the trauma of her childhood and simply trying to be a functional adult. She has her medication to cope and seems overall like a lovely person, who may have gotten involved in some infidelity, which has ruined a household. With everything stripped away, the story allows us to learn a bit more about her upbringing and how these cult leaders leave a lasting impact on their victims. It becomes an honest portrayal and something the film wrestles with, as things begin to get incredibly strange and no one knows what to do. It’s just Grace, Aidan, and Mia trying to figure it all out. Riley Keough’s performance as Grace shows her nimble ability to portray a meek character trying to keep down some harsh trauma endured in the past. Even giving the character the name of Grace says plenty about her, as she needs grace from these two children to give her a chance, which the children refuse to give.
As with any horror film, the inexplicable emerges and things become plausible, which only plays on the trauma of Grace and how she wants to move on from her life. It all stems from religious zealotry, which only becomes more and more apparent, as the small whispers telling her to repent her sins get louder and more consistent. When everything becomes a bit more clear, the film is slightly disappointing because the build-up exceptionally crafts something truly horrifying. What we find out does have some strangeness to it, but the end result felt rather tame in my estimations.
The Lodge certainly operates on its own rules with how it wants to tell its story. It refuses to go for the jump scares and cheap tricks to make audiences jump out of their seats. The film seeks to wind up our emotions until we cannot take the awkwardness and discomfort anymore. It makes for a good introspection of trauma and how survivors continually need to fight it off to live a normal life.