In Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala’s The Lodge, a father leaves his two grieving children alone in a winter cabin with his new girlfriend while they mourn their mother’s death. If nothing else, The Lodge may be 2020’s winner for “Worst Father of the Year”.
Laura, The mother, (Alicia Silverstone) dies by suicide when she can no longer cope with her husband Richard (Richard Armitage) abandoning her for a younger woman. Months later, in an attempt to get his children Aiden (Jaeden Martell) and Mia (Lia McHugh) to like his girlfriend Grace (Riley Keough), Richard proposes a Christmas holiday in the family’s country cabin. When he is called back in to work, he leaves Aiden, Mia, and Grace together in the isolated house.
Grace is keen to establish a rapport with the children, but they resentfully want nothing to do with her. They also know a secret that Richard has been trying to hide from them – that Grace was, as a child herself, the sole survivor of a cult mass suicide. It is a tremendous set-up for a dizzying and uncertain thriller. For the first viewing, that is really the maximum amount of information that an audience needs to know. The Lodge is a deliberately ambiguous and paranoid work, provoking the audience not only to speculate on each character’s motivation but what precise kind of a thriller the film is.
One thing that can be freely noted is that Franz and Fiala’s screenplay can only work with a strong cast with which to play it out, and in that regard the writer/directors have done very well. The film centres on Riley Keough, Jaeden Martell, and Lia McHugh, trapped together when their cabin becomes snowed-in by a storm. All three excel in their roles, and particular praise should be targeted at the two juvenile leads. Richard Armitage is solid, but in all honesty plays a much smaller part.
Alicia Silverstone is the real surprise, appearing to enter and then exit the film within the space of five minutes. Her sudden demise comes as a shock, as she is arguably the biggest star of the film. It breaks the rules of commercial filmmaking and I think is likely to put the viewer on edge. Will the film flash back? Will her character somehow return? It all adds to the general paranioa evoked through the film.
Thimios Bakatakis’ cinematography is richly atmospheric, and makes good use of the film’s striking setting – a dark cabin surrounded by a white snow. The musical score by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans compounds on that atmosphere wonderfully.
Every year tends to bring with it a small number of ‘must-see’ thriller and horror films, and The Lodge comprehensively makes the list for 2020. Even in as a trying year as this has been, it is nice to know that filmmakers are still out there making quality movies like this.