February 3, 2020 The Lodge (Movie Review)
The definition of cabin fever, or stir-crazy, is a claustrophobic reaction, manifested as extreme irritability and restlessness, that takes place when a person or group ends up in an isolated or solitary location. In cinema, this idea has been explored in the Horror genre for decades with classics such as 1980’s The Shining, but in more recent times comes The Lodge.
A film which premiered at Sundance Film Festival in January of 2019, before going on to various other international festivals, The Lodge at last hits theaters in New York as well as Los Angeles on Friday, February 7th and everywhere else February 21st thanks to Neon. Directed by fellow Austrians Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz (creators of 2014’s Goodnight Mommy), whom also wrote the story along with Sergio Casci, The Lodge taps into several types of Horror over the course of 108 minutes. Is it psychological, a case of the aforementioned cabin fever effect, or is it about mental instability, religious cults, or something more? In truth, it is quite difficult to tell, but for those compelled to dive in, read on.
The story revolves solely around a teenager named Aidan (Jaeden Lieberher: It 2017, Knives Out 2019) and his little sister Mia (Lia McHugh: Along Came the Devil 2018, American Woman series) who are distraught with grief after the tragic suicide of their mother. Hanging by a thread prior to their mom’s death due to the pending divorce of her and their father (Richard Armitage: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey 2012, Hannibal series), plus his near indifference as he plans to marry a younger woman named Grace (Riley Keough: Mad Max: Fury Road 2016, It Comes At Night 2017), they are now faced with having to share a family cabin together.
Reluctant to spend their Christmas holiday at the family cabin, but having no choice due to their father’s insistence, they accept Grace as their stepmother, though the siblings already have their suspicions something is not right about the other woman. As a result, it is not before long that the situation turns bad to worse once their dad leaves them alone with Grace in the cabin to attend to work. From here it is a challenge to figure out what is real, mind-tricks, or even paranormal, but regardless, it is a creepy ride into the darker side of the psyche.
Taking place centrally in a cabin, or lodge, tucked away deep in the New England woods by a frozen lake, knee deep snow, and frigid temperatures, the atmosphere is near flawless. Furthermore, the all wood walls/ceilings and dim light interior really set the mood of isolation. With the location playing a large role in the effect of The Lodge, the small cast of four characters take up the bulk of the film’s running time, and the cast of Lieberher, McHugh, Keough, and Armitage is fantastic. Bringing forth wonderful performances, Lieberher and McHugh are perfect as siblings, as he plays the older, mature brother and McHugh the sweet little sister. In fact, their performances are one of the boldest highlights of the entire film and keep the pace moving forward. Then there is Keough who is eerily unstable and unpredictable, portraying a young woman on the edge of sanity.
With all these positive attributes, there are still some parts of The Lodge which do not quite make the puzzle come together. This is greatly in part to the story. which, while disturbing and unsettling, does not connect entirely and find resolve.
As a viewer you might find the first half of the film is wonderfully done – in terms of pace, the direction the story is going, and the tension. However, it is the second half of The Lodge where things seem to go a bit astray, to the point that you are not really sure what exactly is happening. This could very well be the objective of the writers, and a sense of mystery is important with this type of film, but generally the audience like to have some idea of what they are watching. In many aspects the story feels like a case of unknown identity, meaning it really does not seem to know what it wants to be. Regardless, the atmosphere, tension, and acting are second to none, and that is why Cryptic Rock gives The Lodge 3.5 out of 5 stars.