Horror/thriller, The Lodge, recently went up on Hulu and I could not have been more excited! This movie has been teased for what feels like an eternity! Its ethereal yet haunting atmosphere from the trailers alone felt like the next big thing to continue the reign of chilling, compelling horror films coming out of the woodwork recently. Written in part and directed by Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala, The Lodge is a long-awaited follow-up to the excellent body horror film, Goodnight Mommy. The other huge draw for me was Riley Keough as Grace Marshall. Her performances in more recent movies like Hold the Dark, Under the Silver Lake and It Comes At Night are always solid and believable. The Lodge shares similar tone and tension with each of those films so in those moments of paralyzing despair and inconceivable fear, she really shines. Quick recommendation: I first saw Riley Keough in a lesser known film from 2012 called, Jack & Diane. Half horror, half love story with damn good practical effects and like, bloody, organ eating. It’s one of my favorites! So yea, The Lodge had all the makings of a huge hit, in my opinion; pressing all the right buttons: A remote cabin, cold, isolating weather and a crazy religious cult. Let’s go.
The plot is simple in order to set up plenty of complex religious themes and symbolism. Grace Marshall is left with her boyfriend’s two children (Mia and Aiden) in a snowy, secluded cabin atop a frozen pond. Her only job is to look after them until he returns on Christmas day. Mia and Aiden have never taken to Grace and the idea of being stuck in a house with her at all sickens them. Especially during the Christmas season of all possible times. Aiden refers to her as a “psychopath.” But why?
The lodge has multiple floors and the camera tends to weave in and out of its wooden levels and layers the same way you’d peer inside an elaborate, multi-story dollhouse. To that point, the use of dolls in the film, their movements, positioning and placement; mimicking and foreshadowing human life, most recently reminds me of Hereditary or the recent Creepshow episode, The House of the Head. The Lodge uses this device to effectively as a physical simulation of a higher power. Specifically, the belief that something bigger than you is pulling all the strings.
Mia is rightfully inconsolable over her mother’s suicide but tortured even further in believing her mother must not be in heaven if she killed herself. This kind of absolute thinking taught to children can be harmful when unexplained things happen. Suicide is hard enough to reconcile without the added idea that a loved one is also burning in Hell for eternity. Her Father quickly throws religious platitudes out the window to explain that no one knows where we go and that might be the only truth we can prove. This conversation between them is healthy and normal and provides additional types of perspectives. Allowing Mia to form her own conclusions. As a society, people bend and mold religious ideas all the time to fit inside whatever makes them most comfortable. Though sometimes to evil, manipulative ends. The scene with Mia and her father matters in order to bring Grace’s childhood trauma as the sole survivor of a suicide cult, to the forefront. Grace, as an adult, is what it looks when a child is raised with extreme religious teaching bathed in punishment and sacrifice as the “true” way to live and worship with zero connection to the outside world. She has all the traumatic symptoms one could expect. The Lodge repeatedly depicts expressions of good and evil invading each other’s territory and the inability to tell the difference. Grace’s nightmares and private rituals are gut wrenching to watch and once her medication vanishes, the soft, maniacal voice of the cult leader reemerges inside her head, echoing the same harrowing messages she heard on repeat as a child.
The Lodge handles the juxtaposition of Heaven and Hell in one physical and mental place as effectively as Hereditary did without anything cliché about it. What I preferred about The Lodge was the absence of a long-winded explanation at the end of the movie attempting to tie together what everything meant. If anything, The Lodge goes the complete other way with it by the final scene. There is so much more to dive into with this movie including some twists that go beyond what I have mentioned here, but it was totally worth the wait and I've since watched it 3 times in a row. Have you seen it? Let me know!