The Lodge Review: A stone-cold chiller that boasts a frosty atmosphere
Creating a chilling atmosphere and featuring another standout performance from Riley Keough, the newest horror film from Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz, The Lodge, is a stone-cold chiller with only a few missteps.
The film follows Grace (Keough), a soon-to-be stepmom whose relationship with her fiancé Richard (Richard Armitage) causes immense strife in his family. Due to Richard going through a divorce while they’re dating and the details of how the met, their relationship inadvertently sparks a major tragedy within the family that causes a rift between Grace and Richard’s children – Aidan (Jaeden Martell) and Mia (Lia McHugh). Attempting to mend her broken relationship with Aidan and Mia, Grace accompanies them on a trip to their remote lodge for the holidays. However, when Richard is forced to leave Grace alone with Aiden and Mia to go back home for work and a vicious winter storm keeps them snowed in, the secrets of Grace’s dark past begin to come to light and it sends the three of them in a horrifying downward spiral.
The film’s greatest strengths stem from the incredibly atmospheric horror that Fiala and Franz create with the film’s snowy environment. Seeing the amount of snow literally sends chills down your spine and makes you cold in a way that feels like your there. The shots of the seemingly endless snow that surrounds The Lodge are both beautiful and haunting and every time the film has anyone venture out onto the surrounding ice, you’re left hoping that no one falls through. Even the inside of The Lodge is incredibly creepy with how the camera captures the tightness of the area making viewers feel just as trapped as Grace and everyone else. At times it really feels as if the walls are closing in and the way characters are constantly moving around the same rooms makes you feel as if you’re truly stuck in a closing maze. The Lodge brings new meaning to cabin fever in how it immerses viewers into the isolation and claustrophobia that permeates throughout the entire film.
The environment only becomes creepier through the slow-burning tension and suspense that comes from Grace’s dark past being unleashed. Every time night comes, it’s easy to find yourself holding your breath as Grace’s occult up-bringing creates a sense of mystery. While the slow-burn tension won’t be for everyone, there’s a perfect level of patience Fiala and Franz have in unveiling new details and creating a silence that sucks viewers in and has them gripped with suspense. From Grace navigating the pitch-black hallways at night to the echoing words of Grace’s father, there’s a constant presence that comes at night that keeps viewers on their toes. Not to mention, the building suspense leads to some perfectly timed scares that feel unique and leave you entranced as to where things are going.
Unfortunately, all the wonder the film builds about what is really happening to Grace and the kids leads to mixed results as it juggles twists that threaten the likeability and stakes of the characters. The tension between Grace and Richard’s children is easily one of the most engrossing aspects of the whole film and it stays intriguing because of realistic it comes off. The context and details, which I won’t spoil here, behind the tension between the kids and Grace is understandable and makes you care about the characters. However, it takes things too far when a big twist comes into play later in the film and it greatly affects how you perceive the characters. For most of the film, you question how Grace’s past is coming into play with what’s happening and whether or not a nightmare Aiden has actually happened. When the answers you’re seeking are revealed, there’s just something about it that’s unsatisfying.
Part of it comes from the fact that all of the build up of what they believe is happening has such a drastic effect on Grace that’s she so far gone. There’s no real chance of snapping out of the madness she descends into and while you feel bad for her, she does things that are tough to redeem or to have care for her. The “big reveal” also affects your viewers on Aiden and Mia and they become kind of unlikable when you see how much they actually know. It’s not like you completely lose sympathy for them, especially because of the situation they end up in, but it’s hard to root for them because of how they kind of caused things to get this far. Thus with no one to fully get behind, there’s a lack of stakes to have and it leaves to decipher your feelings on the final moments with the characters. In some ways, I had some appreciation for how Fiala and Franz handle the ending because of how helpless everyone is in the situation making it more horrifying, but it could’ve been more effective if there were some stronger emotional stakes to go with it.
Even with some of the story missteps, the performances shine through them and Keough puts in a perfectly ranged performance. Keough has already show how capable and ranged she can be in a slew of indie films over the years, but here she takes things to a whole new level. She makes all of the issues Grace is going through and her dealing with her past haunting her very easy to connect to and when everything finally gets to her, it’s hard not to find yourself feeling some sympathy while also being deathly afraid of what she’s going to do. It’s a very charismatic performance that take a strongly terrifying turn and further proves that Keough is a talent on the rise. Martell also delivers a strong performance that also displays his great range and shares some strong scenes with Keough as Aiden has a lot of disdain towards Grace. He adds another great performance to his already stellar career that’s thankfully not slowing down anytime soon.
If The Lodge is anything, it’s both a strong showing of atmospheric horror that slowly chills viewers into cabin fever and that Keough is certainly a name to watch. Those that love a good slow-burn horror will find themselves cozying up to everything that Fiala and Franz bring with The Lodge and if you’re looking some chilling drama set against an alluring, haunting, and isolated wintry backdrop, then The Lodge is just what you’re looking for.