By DEIRDRE CRIMMINS
Starring Riley Keough, Richard Armitage, Jaeden Martell, Lia McHugh, and Alicia Silverstone
Written by Sergio Casci, Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz
Directed by Severin Fiala, and Veronika Franz
Has any architectural structure gotten as much cinematic attention as a cabin? There is just something about the rustic, remote location of these cozy homes that lend themselves to romance, reflection, and (far more interestingly) to terror. Though THE LODGE sets itself apart in both premise and nomenclature, its bleak vision of humanity puts it into the pantheon of nihilist cabin in the woods movies.
The latest film from the resurrected ashes of Hammer Horror (yes, those Hammer Films), THE LODGE is also the second feature film from the directing duo behind 2014’s GOODNIGHT MOMMY. That film was loosely constructed around the horror that arises when children and their mother are isolated in their home for a long stretch of time, and THE LODGE shares similar DNA.
Laura and Richard (Alicia Silverstone and Richard Armitage) have separated, leaving their children simultaneously with two houses and no home. It does not help that their father’s much younger girlfriend Grace (Riley Keough) wants desperately to get to know these kids. Mia and Aiden (Lia McHugh and Jaeden Martell) are upset with both of their parents, with good reason. When they then must spend Christmas at the family cabin with Grace while their father finishes up his work for the year, they are less than thrilled. Grace’s unconventional childhood and her ability to relate to these standoffish kids makes it even harder to settle in to life in the woods.
Aside from Grace’s adulterous ways, she is the sole survivor of a Heaven’s Gates-esque cult. This complicates her relationship with everyone else and also makes her incredibly hard to read. Regular fodder for small talk and pleasantries are completely lost on her, but that does not stop her from trying to bond with these reluctant kids. Slowly they appear to be warming, or at least melting, to her presence. That is, until something goes terribly wrong.
“It’s all just so bleak.”
The incidents at the cabin are difficult to believe and call into question whether the source of their newfound predicament is supernatural or more terrestrial. THE LODGE asks a lot of its audience, as it explains very little and instead steeps the characters in a heavy environment for much of the film.
Both young actors rise to the quiet and atmospheric material, but THE LODGE is carried and made by a reserved but nuanced performance by Keough. She has made her own name for herself as a versatile performer, and anyone who may dismiss her due to her pedigree frankly hasn’t been paying attention. Grace is not an easy character to empathize with and her work here brings this character far more empathy than any of the other characters give her. The situation she finds herself in is not typical, nor is her history, but she makes Grace’s fear and agency relatable.
The cinematography within THE LODGE also does a lot of the heavy lifting to create the feeling of oppressive despair and isolation. Blue and white light, freezing cold winds, and endless acres of snow all come together to male the character’s hopelessness feel even more justified. The still scenes of the sparse cabin, echoed in the companion doll’s house (which was likely plotted before the filmmakers saw HEREDITARY’s minihome), echo the plot’s desolation. It’s all just so bleak.
There is no joy in watching THE LODGE. It is difficult to watch, and offers little satisfaction, and is wholly unconcerned with dispensing comfort. However, horror fans know that this is all intended as a glowing compliment. The level of craftsmanship in drafting this raw desperation is truly impressive, and should not be ignored.