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John’s Horror Corner: The Lodge (2019), atmospheric psychological horror with a heavy dose of emotionally challenging family therapy.

June 1, 2020

MY CALL: Cold, harrowing and smartly written. Strongly recommended for those who have the stomach for emotionally challenging horror. MORE MOVIES LIKE The Lodge: Looking for more horrifying family therapy sessions, try Frailty (2001), The Babadook (2014), Goodnight Mommy (2014), The Visit (2015), Get Out (2017), Us (2019), Hereditary (2918) or Midsommar (2019).

From the most casual introduction, soon-to-be stepmother Grace’s relationship with Mia and Aidan is strained and awkward, even if not in an unkind way. The kids are conflicted in seeing their mother being replaced and see Grace as the reason for this. So Grace (Riley Keough; It Comes at Night, The House Jack Built, Hold the Dark) treads lightly and does her best to get involved, and their father plays a guiding hand in their integration. Even when Grace is alone with the kids, she feels alone, alienated, dejected. But when an act of kindness finally shines through, it’s warm and welcomed and even feels like a relief from all the tension. That won’t last long…

The winter scenes are gorgeous and crisply shot, but also as bleak at the atmosphere in the house. Alone with Richard’s (Richard Armitage; Castlevania, Hannibal) kids, they lose power and find themselves stranded at the family cabin amid a snowy winter. As you’d expect, tension mounts.

Though not to such emotionally brutal degree as Hereditary (2918) or Midsommar (2019), this film presents its survivors with a challenging loss in the family (Alicia Silverstone; The Crush). Wow, that suicide scene was shocking!

Austrian co-writers and directors Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz (The Field Guide to Evil, Goodnight Mommy) approach their third horrific endeavor together. And much as in their past films, they sow distrust and weaponize domestic dread.

This whole thing goes places I did not expect. I’m not sure how much I like its direction, but the character writing along the way makes it all worthwhile. Self-abuse, grief, paranoia and guilt are the operative themes toying with the audience as we weigh supernatural, religious or psychological explanations for what transpires.

Really, you’ll feel your heart and soul sink to the depths of your bowels as the final act unfolds. It’s a fearsome gut punch, and it is harrowing. You feel… hopeless. It’s just… sick. Not gory, not physically brutal, but sick. Yet, in reflecting on some of the harsh hands life deals out to those unprepared to cope with them, you almost understand the dreadful web that’s spun and its horrific result, even if only by understanding our own desperate frailty.

Strongly recommended for those who have the stomach for emotionally challenging horror. For a second (and also positive) appraisal, please check out Mark’s review as well.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. June 3, 2020 1:24 pm

    Nice review. The Lodge really caught me by surprise. It’s very effective as a deep psychological horror picture that doesn’t some pretty interesting things with its characters.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      June 5, 2020 2:46 pm

      I fear that is exactly why many people didn’t like it. More specifically, because they didn’t understand that “that” was the kind of film they were watching until they were too deep to turn back.

  2. June 7, 2020 9:31 am

    Thanks for the review. I keep reading great things about this one. Going to have to check it out.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      June 7, 2020 3:40 pm

      The negative reviews I’ve encountered seem to be from those disappointed by slower pacing. I find this highly interesting, but it was marketed as something more “exciting” than the slowly and quietly dreadful film that it is.

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