The second film is always the hardest. It decides whether you remain a flash in the pan or become a long-running hit. For Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala THE LODGE now the follow-up to her psychological thriller “I see, I see”. We reveal in our review how this compares to its largely acclaimed predecessor.
A hut with many secrets.
The plot summary
Journalist Richard (Richard Armitage) decides to spend the Christmas holidays with his two children Mia (Lia McHugh) and Aidan (Jaeden Martell) and his new girlfriend Grace (Riley Keough) in his cozy, snowy forest cabin in the mountains. But his children are anything but enthusiastic about it: they don’t trust their “future stepmother” – and they let her know that at every opportunity. When Richard has to go into town for a few days for work and leaves his family alone in the mountains, new, scary events happen every day that reinforce Mia and Aidan’s belief that something is wrong with Grace. And when the siblings discover extremely gruesome details from Grace’s childhood, an increasingly escalating cat-and-mouse game begins that takes the three of them to – and through – the limits of madness…
The Lodge Movie Meaning of ending
Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala caused a huge stir with their feature film debut “I see, I see” in 2014. The hype surrounding the Austrian directing duo, even internationally, was quite comparable to that surrounding Ari Aster, whose debut work “Hereditary” four years later was chosen by many to be one of the best horror films of all time. Now these two contributions come together in a certain way in Franz and Fiala’s follow-up film “The Lodge”. Visually and acoustically, the snow hut horror is so reminiscent of Aster’s debut that one almost wants to speak of a staging copy. The trailer alone works according to the same audiovisual principle. But that doesn’t have to be a problem at first. Good copy is always better than bad self-made. But like “I see, I see,” which relies solely on a twist that was predictable from the prologue, “The Lodge” is also primarily a deception that relies on mechanisms and motifs that other (horror) filmmakers use current generation have long since adopted. And if you leave the film sector, in the case of “The Lodge” you come to even further, much more absurd comparisons: the plot, for example, is very reminiscent of a Donald Duck cartoon that is several years old.
Evil has many faces…
Admittedly, the beginning of “The Lodge” hits you with full force in the pit of your stomach. Franz and Fiala, who are also responsible for the script, as well as author Sergio Casci (“The Caller”) don’t even come up with a particularly innovative surprise effect, but simply use genre grandmasters such as “Psycho” director Alfred Hitchcock or “ Scream” mastermind Wes Craven by establishing Alicia Silverstone (“Book Club – The Best is Yet to Come”) as the main character for a few minutes before she shoots herself in the head in front of the camera shortly afterwards. At first it’s shocking, but in the second it’s not so shocking. It wouldn’t have been necessary to show the suicide directly anyway. There is a time jump of several months between this and the actual events, so that the direct consequences of the suicide are not discussed that much. The mention of the mother’s death would have been enough to establish the scenario, so showing the suicide quickly turns out to be sensationalism. The focus of “The Lodge” is the questionable patchwork family vacation that father Richard goes on with his children and the new girlfriend they hate. And that’s where the problem begins. Because high-concept premise or not: To swallow the fact that a father leaves his children, who are still clearly marked by the death of their biological mother, alone with the new partner who is anything but integrated into the family and also because of a cult past If you are in an extremely mentally unstable state, you have to close both eyes very tightly in order not to constantly question the basic idea and somehow allow the characters involved to experience events that have gotten out of hand.
But let’s assume that you come to terms with the basic idea, at least the game with enemy images works at the beginning of “The Lodge”. The way the script manages to make it impossible to tell for quite a long time whether cult refugee Grace or the two children are up to evil is the film’s greatest strength for a long time. Both Riley Keough (“American Honey”) and the two film siblings Jaeden Martell (“It: Chapter II”) and Lia McHugh (“Along Comes the Devil”) do not take away from each other’s aloof, dark presence, as both parties repeatedly meet each other testing and provoking each other. The extent to which Grace’s insecurity is the cause of her sometimes clumsy interaction with the kids, or whether she is deliberately engaging in psychological terror, remains open for a long time, as does the question of whether the children’s diabolical facial expressions are more like the “dogs that bark, don’t bite” brand , or whether Aidan and Mia are the unofficial successors of the sadistic twins from “I see, I see”. In terms of acting, this is definitely great cinema in the quiet moments, but that changes as soon as the events in the hut slowly escalate. What begins with missing provisions and stopped clocks throughout the house and continues with eerie voices and noises ultimately leads to increasingly outrageous symbols, motifs and visions before Aidan unpacks one obscure explanation after the other until you are on Grace’s side for that reason alone has to, because you know just as little as they do what is actually going on here – in the truest sense of the word. All of these bizarre complications are also reflected in the play of the three-man team, which begins with large gesticulations and finally starts to overact. Given the narrative progression, however, this is actually consistent; The psychodrama turns into hopelessly constructed over-the-top horror, which, like the actual premise, can hardly be taken seriously, which means that it loses a large part of its horror.
The makers can compensate for this to some extent with their production, which is very much inspired (or stolen) from existing horror films and directing styles, but is at least effective. Although the dollhouse motif reveals its narrative usefulness toward the end of the film, the shots from inside the toyhouse and the transitions from there to the real lodge are so reminiscent of “Hereditary” that one simply has to make the comparison. Unfortunately, “The Lodge” is nowhere near so meticulously designed that its copy would stand up to comparison. The fact that cameraman Thimios Bakatakis has been responsible for a large part of Yorgos Lanthimos’ work so far (including “The Killing of a Sacred Deer”) is also noticeable in the film. The distorted perspectives and unusual camera angles, which always make the actors appear significantly smaller than the actually rather cramped hut around them, automatically cause discomfort. There is no doubt about it: Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz know their craft when it comes to staging. The lack of typical jump scares – even in moments that would be ideal for them – also shows the ambition with which the majority of currently respected horror filmmakers present their works. In addition to Ari Aster, we also remember Robert Eggers and Jordan Peele. But ultimately the Austrian genre filmmakers are tripping themselves up with their story, which is far-fetched from the start. And the fact that their film is actually only okay because they blithely copy from much better representatives of the genre. We’d rather go straight to the original.
Conclusion: A lot of “Hereditary” here, a pinch of Yorgos Lanthimos there and a story that you can’t actually take seriously from the start because of its painfully constructed basic idea: The “I see, I see” directors also used “I see, I see” for “The Lodge”. Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala prefer to work on what they know rather than create something new.
“The Lodge” can be seen in selected USA cinemas from February 6th.