The Lodge (Fantastic Fest 2019)

The Lodge (Fantastic Fest 2019) Cover

The Lodge premiered at Sundance back in January 2019, was scheduled for release this upcoming November, and then (at the time of this publication) is rescheduled for February 2020. I wish the film had kept its initial November release or only pushed it back to December, as the majority of this film takes place during Christmas time. The Lodge is not a Christmas movie by any means, but just the sheer fact that it takes place over the holidays would have been fitting if audiences could have seen this on the big screen during the same time that the movie takes place. Nonetheless, the multiple pushed back release dates have caused me to be pleasantly surprised to say that The Lodge is an above-average horror film that I would recommend you go see regardless of when it is released.

A young woman named Grace (Riley Keough) and her new introverted stepchildren Aidan (Jaeden Martell) and Mia (Lia McHugh) are isolated in the family’s cabin during a cold winter season. Mysteries surrounding Grace’s past and her involvement with religion creep up and what unfolds is a mass disturbing horror.

There’s lots of elements that make you think you’ve seen this movie before. The premise reminded of The Visit: two kids going to spend time with an unfamiliar family member. The Lodge ends up going an entirely different direction and is unique enough to warrant seeing what horrors get unleashed. The soundtrack makes The Lodge also feel like other generic horrors. You have eerie crescendos (that we’ve heard dozens of times before) create tension. Fortunately, that’s about all that is similar to other scary movies. This film spares us of the annoying repetitive jumpscares that films with little substance will often overly rely on to create “scares” and, instead, The Lodge focuses on the characters, the story, and it’s awkward tension-filled moments.

The tension in the film is often built from unusual conversations and actions between step mom Grace and the kids. However, these tense moments are often cut short due to not having an interesting way to conclude them. In one scene, young Mia is showing Grace a video she made for her dad. The video features the kids, the dad, and the kid’s birth mother having a wonderful time in the snow during a previous Christmas. As soon as birth mom Laura (Alicia Silverstone) appears on video, Grace storms out. The decision is awkward and interesting. However, the scene ends abruptly, there’s no conclusion to it, and the film moves on to the next awkward moment Grace will have with the kids. Luckily, the film eventually builds up to something more than just individual tense scenes but it does take its time getting there.

Despite the short 1 hour and 40 minute running time, you feel every minute of it. This is not a movie that is going to have ghosts popping up with a loud noise every 10 minutes. Horror fans who enjoy traditional fast-paced scares will be disappointed. The film does have an attention getting introduction that caused me to gasp and then it is a slow-meandering (yet effective) tension filled ride up until the very end, which does in fact go bonkers. Pacing can be compared to that of Hereditary; maybe a bit slower.

The kid’s father Ryan comes off as a bit ignorant as he must go to work and leave the kids alone with Grace. He even shows Grace how to shoot a gun and leaves it with her. This may have been an understandable choice if we, the audience, could trust Grace. The problem is that we get very little dialogue from Grace before the father decides to leave her. She comes off as cold, reserved, and unenthusiastic about being with the kids. Something that could have been done to make us not think that his character is stupid was to show us their level of intimacy; similar to what Jordan Peele did with the couple in Get Out.

Despite pacing that asks for patience and character choices that could have been better, “The Lodge” is a unique story that has characters who mostly feel realistic and will slowly boil to a surprising finale that is sure to please those wanting an exciting experience.

Final Verdict:Effective slow burn featuring eerie scenes that all build up to a giant unexpected surprise towards the end, which will spark interesting conversations after.