Review by Sean Boelman
As the follow-up to their atmospheric chiller Goodnight Mommy, filmmakers Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz return with The Lodge, a creepy new film set in the confines of a snowbound cabin. Yet despite an extremely talented cast and some solid craftsmanship on display, the script is simply too weak to hold the movie up.
The film follows a woman who finds herself snowed in at a remote cabin with her two soon-to-be-stepchildren as strange occurrences begin to take place, causing even further friction within their relationship. Ultimately, the movie is a pretty conventional isolation thriller, albeit with a particularly devious twist (as one would expect from Fiala and Franz).
Unfortunately, the biggest weakness of the film is that Fiala and Franz don’t seem to have a complete grasp of the movie’s flow of time. Although this is almost fitting given the fact that a significant part of what makes the film so dread-inducing is the disorientation that the characters feel from losing track of their surroundings, this also results in significant portions of the movie that drag.
The film does explore some extremely interesting themes, although these are unfortunately largely left underdeveloped as the movie begins to resort more to horror movie cliches. The beginning of the film starts out as a riveting exploration of grief and trauma, and while Fiala and Franz eventually stick the landing, the journey they take to get there isn’t all too satisfying.
Part of the reason why the movie doesn’t have the intended emotional impact is that the character development is rather lackluster. Although the first act gets off to a relatively strong start, setting up character arcs with some very strong potential, the film goes in a very different direction for the second and third acts. While there is still some good stuff happening, nothing works as well as the hard-hitting introduction.
In many ways, the movie serves as the perfect starring vehicle for its lead Riley Keough. Although the supporting cast, which consists of Jaeden Martell, Richard Armitage, Lia McHugh, and Alicia Silverstone is great, it is Keough who shines the brightest. Her performance is nuanced and filled with emotion, bringing to mind other recent great horror performances like that of Toni Colette in Hereditary.
Visually, Fiala and Franz bring an eerie style to the film, and this is arguably the movie’s greatest strength. Granted, the editing is a bit haphazard at times, but the cinematography and production design are both top-notch and do a wonderful job of setting the film’s atmosphere. Some of the movie’s visuals are haunting and will stick with viewers long after the credits roll.
There are a lot of good things happening in Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz’s The Lodge, but it is too uneven to be of much impact. Still, thanks to a strong performance from Riley Keough, it is worth watching.
The Lodge opens in theaters on February 7.