MPAA Rating: R/Genre: Psychological Horror Thriller/Stars: Riley Keough, Jaeden Martell, Lia McHugh, Richard Armitage, Alicia Silverstone, Danny Keough, Lola Reid/Runtime: 108 minutes
I think it can be safely said that one of the finest feelings that can be conjured up when a fan of the horror genre of movie magic sits down to view a slice of horror cinema that they have never seen before is the tingle that goes down your spine since you are going into a film with absolutely no idea on what you are about to get yourself into. Indeed as for why this tingle exists I would say that part of the reason is due to the mood and vibe a good horror slice of cinema is able to conjure up since yes it makes you ready at any given time to jump out of your seat and hide behind it for the remainder of the movie, but it also at the same time really helps you garner quite the fondness and respect for the horror genre of movie magic altogether. Ultimately however, I think the big reason for that delightful tingle is because with horror films, more than a lot of other genres with sci-fi and fantasy perhaps being the exception, all semblance of realty can be hurled out a window at full speed to say nothing of the fact that there is absolutely nothing that is impossible. Suffice it to say that when you are trying to survive or get to the bottom of a chilling puzzler in the face of overwhelming and insurmountable terror and literally nothing is off limits, there is a significant amount of wiggle room for genuine horror to say nothing of astonishment to be conjured up. This brings us to the slice of cinema I am reviewing today, 2019’s The Lodge from the scribe/helming dynamic partnership of Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala respectively, and honestly I think this film is a downright top-notch example of the concept I have been discussing with you movie goer. Indeed it might be a simplistic narrative of terror being triggered by packing a mentally-scarred woman, a pair of sullen kids, and a lot of rancor and hostility all into a cabin that is snowed in and pretty much in the middle of nowhere. Yet with some actually well-thought out curves in the road narrative wise, a tempo that is spot-on for this kind of film, terrific work by the casting department, and work from the cinematography department that is very much the dictionary definition of nightmarish, this is one slice of cinema that is meant to be a bone-chilling and unnerving analysis on a possible consequence that being vicious and mean could terrifyingly result in. Yes I know that precedent has made movie goers very approach a scary movie that was unleashed on us at the beginning of any given calendar year and understandably so. With that said though, this slice of cinema is thankfully an outlier to that cinematic rule and one that will work its intended horror magic the best if you watch it inside, in the dark, and on the most bone-chillingly cold winter night imaginable. Something I may or may not have done the first time I watched this and that my nerves may or may not have completely forgiven me for even after all this time…..
The plot is as follows: The Lodge gets underway as we witness the end of a marriage going heart wrenchingly and tragically awry when a woman by the name of Laura decides not to take too kindly (to put it lightly) to the news told to her by her long-estranged husband Richard that he wishes to put the final touches on their divorce since he is planning to wed a young woman by the name of Grace. A young woman who Laura incidentally is by no means fond of since it’s implied Grace is what caused the pair to separate in the first place. From there, we see that in the aftermath their two children Mia and Aidan, who also have no desire whatsoever to really make any attempt to try and accept Grace into their lives for the same reason as their dear ol’ mum, find themselves suddenly being pushed to deal with her when their dad has all 4 of them go up north for the holidays to spend time at a cabin located virtually in the middle of nowhere. Things take a turn for the nightmarish however when first the dad has to leave for a day or 2 on an unexpected business matter and then a freak winter storm settles in thus resulting in our trio being snowed in and stuck together in the cabin with no idea when they’ll be able to get out. Yet, we soon see that in addition to the hostility that is currently at an all-time high swelling through the cabin, a new emotion known as no more and no less than Pure Grade-A terror soon starts to make its way through the residence when weird and kooky things start to occur. Things that seem to be intricately connected not only to the kids’ mom, but also to Grace’s own childhood which, without going into spoilers, wasn’t exactly the best situation for a child to grow up in. Suffice it to say that now what may have started out as an incredibly uneasy situation for everyone involved has now devolved into one that is no more and no less than the stuff nightmares are made of to say nothing of one that may very well change the lives of our unfortunately snowbound together trio forever….
Now this slice of cinema’s narrative, one incidentally that proves to be as confined and cramped as the isolated cabin our trinity of main characters find themselves all but trapped in, comes to us from a pair of scribe-helmers named Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz. A pair of talent incidentally who do a wonderful job of contributing some white knuckle terror to the iconic concept of a group of people spending their first winter holiday together as an extremely reluctant family unit whilst also managing to make the leap with their distinct and trademark potency willingly along for the ride from making slices of cinema made in their native Austria over to making slices of cinema being made here in America. Yes I know the first film this dynamic duo made together, 2014’s Goodnight Mommy, was one very much like this in that it not only dealt with a twisted form of psychological combat that a woman and a pair of fairly bratty children find themselves caught up whilst stuck under the same roof together, but also had a twist to the proceedings that really stuck with you long after the movie. Yet whereas in Goodnight Mommy, the twist was one that you could see coming if you really looked for it, this slice of cinema’s is one that you might not be able to see from that far ahead, but which will require you to place a lot more in the way of your disbelief to the side in order for it to hook into you the way that it’s intended to. Even with that in mind however, there is no denying that what is important to this film isn’t just the twist. Rather, it’s the ever-increasing amounts of nightmarish dread and gloom like snow surrounding the cabin our trio find themselves trapped in that our filmmaking duo makes sure to coat this film with from the very first frame all the way to the final blood-curdling moments before the screen cuts to black and the credits begin to roll. Now it may also come equipped with some distinct stabs at trying to make you as uncomfortable as possible, with particular regard to a moment featuring a perilous tumble through the ice, but at the end of the day this slice of cinema is one that seems to be more focused on unnerving you and shaking up your sanity as much as possible. A feat it manages to accomplish courtesy of some wonderfully and appropriately bleak work from both the cinematography and musical accompaniment departments. We also see that this slice of cinema actually does a brilliant job of adding to the mood and atmosphere of the film by showing us chunks from the iconic claustrophobic wintry terrorland classic 1982’s The Thing courtesy of Grace and the kids watching it on the TV whilst stuck in their own version of what MacReady and the 1982 U.S. Antarctic All-Men’s Choir went through. Yet perhaps the arena where this slice of cinema behind the camera is the most riveting is how the filmmakers choose to use the film as an analysis of the idea that perhaps one of the key elements that could push a person in going too far with how much stock they put in their faith of choice is fear. Indeed one of the helmers of this slice of cinema is wedded to one of cinema’s most unapologetic atheist helmers and shows it here by showcasing the idea that religion, for all its positives could also be quite the horrific pit for the wrong person to fall into since for those people faith can lead to obsession, obsession can lead to fanaticism, fanaticism can lead to insanity, and insanity can lead to…..the Dark Side (oh and brutal acts of violence. Can’t forget about those). Yes I know this might be a component to this film that might raise an eyebrow or 10, especially when you see this film is also trying to make a statement about some other things, but it is still a quite riveting nuance to add to this film all the same.
Of course, this chilling nightmare would not work nearly as well if the cast in front of the camera was nowhere close to working on the same level as the work done by the immensely skilled groups behind the camera. Thankfully that most assuredly is not the case here as everyone in the (albeit limited) cast all manage to do absolutely fantastic work with their respective characters. This starts with Riley Keough in the lead role and she is downright chilling in the best way possible. Indeed Miss Keough manages to showcase a real talent for low-key showing us Grace’s ever-fluctuating psychological perspective to the point that you will find yourself getting more and more unnerved as you view this character begin to slowly but surely unravel at the seams. Yet even in the moments where things are beginning to go completely nightmarish Keough does so good that we as the audience don’t ever feel a lack of sympathy for her character. Indeed this young woman is not a character like Jack Torrance who let their vices get the best of their already-fragile grip on their sanity. No, this is a young woman who was just trying to be the best person she could be and who circumstances caused……certain things to occur. Now in terms of the other important adult characters we get a performance from Alicia Silverstone who, despite limited screen time, shows she has become a go-to actress for distinct films like this whilst Richard Armitage does do a decent job as the kids’ selfish dad who is stupid enough to think that making his kids spend quality time with this woman they have no love for by any means to say nothing of slowly but surely going cuckoo and learns the hard way that might not have been the best idea. Finally, I also think praise should be given to both Jaeden Martell and Lia McHugh who, as Aidan and Mia respectively, are absolutely terrific. Indeed here are a pair of kids who are equally as good as being little pills as they are at being stricken with spine-tingling terror when things really start taking a turn for the truly horrific. Suffice it to say everyone in the cast does a good job with the material and makes it work to the best of their abilities.
All in all I have no doubt that there will be people who read my review for this slice of horror cinema, decide to give it a watch based off the rating I give it, and then find themselves disgruntled with the film due to either how slow it is or how much it keeps things hidden from you until the film determines that it is just the right moment to do so. Further complicating things, for this reviewer at least, is that I am a very toughened horror film fan and as a result I still have a love for this genre that is second to none, but it is not that often that I can find a slice of horror cinema that either even remotely scares me or which actually impacts me from a pathos point of view. Well it might have its fair share of flaws dear reader, but for some of you out there I can definitely say that I believe 2019’s The Lodge will definitely be a slice of horror cinema that fulfills that criteria fairly well. Indeed with a top-notch collection of performances, downright beautifully bleak camera work, a spine-tingling musical accompaniment, and a narrative that gnaws away at you from beginning to end, there is no denying that this slice of cinema is a well done effort by a group of people who are no less than immensely skilled craftsmen in every sense of the word. Suffice it to say that the creative duo at the helm have managed to sculpt a truly blood-curdling slice of cinema that may be the dictionary definition of a slow-burn, but whose chilled flame manages to light up a distinctly bleak and little seen corner of how we as people treat other people thus giving us a film that I don’t think I will be getting out of my head anytime soon. A belief I can validate by telling you that the night after I saw this movie I walked out of the darkness of the living room into the star-lit night and yes I was enthralled by what I saw, but I was also for the first time in quite a while a wee bit spooked by what I had seen as well. Suffice it to say that as long as the horror genre gives us more slices of cinema like this one, I think it is a safe bet to make that more spooky good times are just around the darkened bend in the road movie goers. Just you wait and see. On a scale of 1-5 I give The Lodge “2019” a solid 3.5 out of 5.