When a father is forced to abruptly depart for work, he leaves his children, Aidan and Mia, at their holiday home in the care of his new girlfriend, Grace. Isolated and alone, a blizzard traps them inside the lodge as terrifying events summon specters from Grace's dark past.
As you probably know by now, I'm a huge horror fan. An outstanding horror movie is almost always one of the best films of the year for me. I find it frustrating that so many people don't value this genre as much as the others, especially since the general public usually tends to like the more generic narratives, filled with predictable jump scares, and dull stories. Nothing against that, obviously, anyone can like whatever they want! However, when comparing with other genres, horror feels like an outsider, only truly followed by a specific group of people, even though it's been admittedly growing in the last few years.
I didn't expect much from The Lodge, which probably helped me enjoy it as much as I did since it's one of the favorite movies of 2020 so far. It's undoubtedly the least formulaic horror flick in quite a while. It features ingredients that, however, audiences are not that fond of: visual storytelling, slow pace, and almost zero jump scares. The first is incredibly captivating not only due to the clever framing and mise-en-scène but also because the dark atmosphere fills the house in a very ominous manner. Its lack of dialogue throughout the runtime might be a no-go for some people, but I love when films "show, don't tell".
The purposefully slow pace is very well-balanced. With the exception of a short period during the second act, where nothing really happens (no new information about story or characters is given to the viewer), every other scene is meaningful either to develop characters or forward the story. The screenplay is structured in a way that never stops being entertaining: something impactful occurs, characters react to it, something important is discovered, and so on. Between the events, the atmosphere never stops being creepy, and the minimal (but efficient) dialogue is remarkably intriguing.
It's a movie that undoubtedly gains a lot from its notable technical attributes. From the astonishing cinematography (Thimios Bakatakis, who has worked with Yorgos Lanthimos in four films) to the exceptional production design, this one-location movie offers a claustrophobic environment elevated by brilliant performances. Riley Keough delivers one of the best performances I've seen from her, creating that perfect balance that makes the viewer question if her character is sane or crazy. The mystery surrounding Grace is partially due to Riley's fantastic interpretation.
Jaeden Martell is really good, and I'm happy that he continues to get great projects to be part of. However, Lia McHugh is the undeniable standout, in my opinion. With just twelve-years-old, Lia gives such a phenomenal display. Her last scene of the film, which she shares with Jaeden, is award-worthy. Both are mind-blowingly compelling during that moment. Impressive performances across the board.
Unfortunately, I do have a few issues regarding the characters. Grace's past is the biggest question mark of the story, and it's left unsatisfyingly ambiguous. The Lodge relies a lot on its visual storytelling, something I absolutely love, but in this particular aspect, I believe a more explicit explanation would have helped the viewer better understand Grace's development. My other problem is related to the kids' motivations, but I have to be very vague due to possible spoilers.
Basically, their actions throughout the movie are justified by something that, while I can partially understand where they're coming from, I can't honestly believe that young children would be able to even think about it, let alone actually doing it seamlessly. This last sentence is the best I can do to describe my issue with these characters. In the end, I have some problems with the characters, but the story boasts some genuinely shocking moments (the first act is brilliant), and an extremely impactful, bold ending.
The Lodge is one of my favorite films of 2020 so far. However, it possesses features that usually don't conquer the general public. For some people, its visual storytelling might be too ambiguous, its slow pace might be too boring, and the lack of jump scares might cause damage entertainment-wise. Fortunately, I love every single one of these aspects. This atmospheric horror flick is elevated by its outstanding technical attributes, especially Thimios Bakatakis' bizarre cinematography, as well as the claustrophobic production design. Boasting an impressive lead performance from Riley Keough and incredible displays from Jaeden Martell and Lia McHugh (standout with just twelve-years-old), the Austrian directing duo (Severin Fiala, Veronika Franz) delivers one of the least generic horror movies in quite some time. Still, the three main characters deserved better development and more transparent motivations. I recommend it for true horror fans, but if you prefer a more "active" horror flick (and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that), maybe it's better to skip this one.
FilmNation Entertainment, Hammer Film Productions, Neon by Severin Fiala, Veronika Franz, Sergio Casci.
Stars: Riley Keough, Jaeden Martell, Lia McHugh, Richard Armitage.
Genres: Drama, Horror, Thriller
Keywords: suicide winter cabin thanksgiving step mother murder snow divorce hammer horror dead dog ice skating cult leader religious cult christmas
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