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“The Lodge” Has A Shaky Foundation

Art house horror is the current fad in fright flicks, that much is clear. I’m hardly complaining, either, as It Follows, Midsommar, The Witch, and plenty of other titles have helped push the genre forward. At the same time, it does seem like we’re entering a period where filmmakers will begin to ape what’s been successful, and too much of The Lodge, opening this week, feels as though it’s riffing on Hereditary. Now, for many, that might be a good thing. Sadly, I found that effort lacking, so this is even more of a letdown. Riley Keough is fantastic in a central role, and there’s ample amounts of dread, but it all adds up to so little that it’s hard not to question if it was worth close to two hours in order to endure, especially after over a year of hype, starting off at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. For me, the answer was no. Your mileage, of course, may vary.

The film is a slow burn horror tale, beginning as one thing before morphing into another. At the outset, we see Aidan (Jaeden Martell) and Mia (Lia McHugh) being taken by their mother Laura (Alicia Silverstone) to see their father Richard (Richard Armitage). The two have separated and this appears to be a ritual for some time. However, this time, Richard needs to talk to Laura. He wants to finalize the divorce, in part so he can marry Grace (Keough), the woman he left Laura for. She doesn’t take it well. Fast-forward to six months later and Richard wants his children to spend time at their remote lodge around Christmas with Grace, hoping they’ll finally warm to their soon to be stepmom. He drives them all up and spends a little time before departing, leaving Grace to try and bond. However, the kids have also learned that Grace is a survivor of a religious cult, something they see as a major warning sign. There are initial moments of warmth, at least between Grace and Mia, but as things get spooky, especially once they end up snowed in, everything devolves. Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz direct a screenplay they co-wrote with Sergio Casci. There isn’t much of a supporting cast, but there are tiny parts for Lola Reid and Katelyn Wells, to name a few. Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans contribute the score, while Thimios Bakatakis handles the cinematography.

First, the positive. There’s some strong acting across the board here, led by Riley Keough. She anchors the movie with a complex performance that’s honestly deserving of a better vehicle. Keough is becoming a queen of independent features, but this one just isn’t quite up to snuff. Even with Jaeden Martell and Lia McHugh capably supporting her, she’s left stranded by a script that is impossible to take seriously. Moreover, it just becomes tedious, meandering around the one hour point and never really picking up again. That’s when this goes from intriguing to monotonous, never bouncing back into the better category. Even when the gore comes towards the end, it’s well past the point of saving most audience members from boredom.

As mentioned above, The Lodge runs out of gas about midway through. Filmmakers Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz, along with their writing partner Sergio Casci, hammer home their thesis well past the point of overkill. Casci, Fiala, and Franz may care about the trio of characters they strand inside the home, but we really don’t. They never do a good enough job of establishing empathy to make what happens matter. The children come closest, but as the focus shifts to Grace, there’s a gaping hole. Keough does her best, but it’s not enough, sadly. The film needed more than just atmosphere and her performance.

Starting today, audiences looking for indie horror can give The Lodge a shot. If you’ve long been a fan of the sort of films that I referenced above, this could play like a Cliff Notes version and deliver some slow burn appeal. However, if they’ve been more of a mixed bag to you, this is going to be a tough one to sit through. Ultimately, you’ll have to decide for yourself, but in my humble opinion, this movie simply misses the mark, minus Keough.

The Lodge is in theaters now.

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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