“A psychological horror that manages to surprise and scare even horror aficionados”
Content warning: this article discusses suicide and contains mild spoilers
Directing duo Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz are back with another bone-chilling horror film. Their debut Goodnight Mommy (2014) showed promise with an unconventional story that is immersive and viscerally effective, setting the film apart from big studio horror franchises. The pair’s sophomore feature The Lodge tackles cabin fever in an affecting way that calls back to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980). The Lodge scares audiences through cold, seclusion, and quiet, rather than relying on jump-scares and otherworldly horrific sequences. The reality of the situation incites a palpable chill that lasts for the duration of the film.
A year after an unexpected death in the family, Aidan (Jaeden Martell) and sister Mia (Lia McHugh) go on a trip to a remote cabin with their father (Richard Armitage) and their soon-to-be stepmom Grace (Riley Keough). Aidan, a young teenager, is highly protective of his little sister and the two have grown extremely close after mourning the death in the family. Their dad goes back into town to wrap up some work, leaving the kids with Grace. Aidan and Mia are suspicious of Grace after learning about her past life in a cult, leading them to antics that, along with the isolation and frigid temperatures, push Grace to her breaking point. The film culminates in a terrifyingly realistic descent into madness. Keough’s performance will raise the hairs on the back of your neck and make you question what is real and what isn’t. The complexity ingrained in Grace’s character takes the audience through a range of emotions. At one moment, Grace is trustworthy, and you feel sympathy for her; another, your stomach drops at the sight of her. Keough’s astounding acting, along with strong performances from Martell and McHugh, carries The Lodge. Without such strong characters, The Lodge would run the risk of feeling inhumane. The cast grounds the story in reality, which makes it even scarier.
The Lodge tackles the difficult topic of suicide. While discussion of this topic veers into spoiler territory, it’s worth mentioning how shocking and upsetting this scenes may be. Very early in the film, Laura (Alicia Silverstone) dies by suicide abruptly. Her character barely gets a chance to exist and her death and the subsequent mourning feel like plot devices used for shock, rather than a measured decision. The scene depicting the death by suicide could easily be removed. The rest of the film would still work and make sense if the characters talked about the suicide rather than it being shown on-screen, which can be very triggering to those with personal connection to suicide. Later on in the film, a fake-out suicide scene depicts the hanging of a child. Visually, the scene is unsettling, but shortly after, we learn the child did not die as the hanging was a sort of prank played on another character. Both suicide scenes leave a bitter taste in the mouth, especially when the film is being released during a time when mental health is discussed more openly and taken more seriously than it has been historically.
Fiala and Franz’ film is a psychological horror that manages to surprise and scare even horror aficionados. The acting, direction, and setting work together to make the film stand out. It should not be taken lightly, though, that The Lodge shows suicide in a way that feels dated and not properly thought through. For those with personal connection to suicide, it may be best to skip The Lodge, or at least read up on the details of the scenes in order to prepare beforehand.
Dir.: Severin Fiala, Veronika Franz
Prod.: Ben Browning, Marc Schipper
Cast: Riley Keough, Alicia Silverstone, Jaeden Martell, Lia McHugh
Release date: 7 February 2020 (US)
Now playing in theaters
Featured image courtesy of Neon Rated