REVIEW: THE LODGE slyly plays with the idea of victim vs. predator in a film with an intriguing & compelling premise


Directors Severin Fiala & Veronika Franz (Goodnight Mommy) deliver a unique set-up in a film that is anchored by Riley Keough’s strong lead performance.

The past several years have shown contemporary filmgoers a modern renaissance in the horror arena. From filmmakers like Ari Aster, Jeremy Saulnier, Robert Eggers, and Jordan Peele, modern horror fans have been treated to small films, often themed to a personal tragedy, employing the subversive twist of a dark horror element. It engages the audience in the human story of the characters while inserting the creeping dread of a genre flavor to further increase the tension and dread of the viewing audience. Directors Severin Fiala & Veronika Franz are no strangers to this movement and to the idea of using a genre element to further implement dread in a story based around a personal tragedy. Their previous film, Goodnight Mommy, is the very definition of this strategy and their latest film, The Lodge, is also very similar in this regard. Stylish and shocking in many ways, The Lodge sets up a compelling and dark premise that builds tension and keeps you guessing as to what is going on, but its greatest strength is the lead performance by Riley Keough, whose arc builds throughout the film and really explores the idea of victim vs. predator.

The Lodge largely follows Grace (Keough), the new fiancee of Richard (Richard Armitage), a recent widower left with two young children, Mia (Lia McHugh) and Aiden (Jaeden Martell). Richard is looking to introduce Grace to his children and looks to a Christmas vacation at a lodge as a prime opportunity to do so. However, Mia and Aiden are deeply resentful of the situation that led Grace and their father to come together as a couple and project that resentment towards Grace, who has led a difficult life & build herself back up to a place where she is looking for stability. However, shortly after arriving at the film’s titular lodge, Richards has to leave abruptly, which leaves Grace to look after Mia and Aiden alone for a few days. During this period, strange occurrences come into play which makes the perspective these characters are experiencing radically shift and we don’t know who to trust as the idea of the victim and the innocent amongst these three characters becomes fluid.

There is a radical twist in The Lodge that will largely impact how the movie lands for you as a viewer. This twist can hit you extremely hard making the film shocking and unexpected; it could also hit you as somewhat predictable depending on how familiar you are with the history of genre and horror in general. The Lodge takes strong queues from films like The Shining, which is a definite influence on the film, but it is also very reminiscent of other films and will draw easy comparisons to I Drink Your Blood, Hereditary (pay close attention to the dollhouses), even at times to Home Alone. While the film sets up a unique premise, it does lose steam and drag at points once the twist is revealed. To the film’s credit, its the strong performances by Keough, McHugh, and Martell that largely save the film. Martell plays the flip side of the strong and likable Bill Dembrough from the It films and his performance opposite Keough largely keeps you engaged in the film. Keough is the strongest arrow in the filmmakers’ quiver in this film, as she goes from strong and confidant, to weak and broken, to meek and committed all in subversive ways in a very strong role. McHugh’s role could largely have been one-note, but she elevates her character’s ambivalence of what is going on in a really unique way and her character’s remorse helps ground the film in many ways. That being said, Armitage largely comes off one-note and is away from the action for too long to really leave a lasting impression onscreen.

That being said, there are some problematic issues in the film. As said earlier, the film is largely built on a twist and how that hits with you will largely affect how you feel about the film. There’s also a problematic representation of mental illness and/or emotional disorders in the film; a prescription bottle often triggers a future plot beat in most genre films and this film is no different in that regard. Despite the film’s strong performances, there’s an element of suspension of disbelief that never really hits given how early the film hits you with some really strong narrative events and then pushes forward with some elements in the family dynamic that don’t really ring true as things people would do given those circumstances. That being said, there’s more good than bad here and the film’s strong cinematography and exploration of issues of the self and grief as seen on screen are interesting enough to recommend the film despite these flaws.

The Lodge is a unique genre film with some faults that are largely overshadowed by the strong performances by Keough, Martell, and McHugh. The filmmakers craft a film that feels like a strong homage to cabin horror like The Shining. While the ending could be stronger, it plays as well as a drama as a horror film, much like Karyn Kusama’s The Invitation and Fiala and Franz have created something that will create conversation and stick with you after viewing.