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Review: ‘The Lodge’ is a slow-burn attack on the mind (Includes first-hand account)

Divorce can already be complicated, but even more so when children are involved. Things can become all the more difficult if one-half of the former couple is involved in a new relationship, especially if its grown serious and steps are being taken towards making the arrangement more permanent. Hurt feelings are almost inevitable, but in some cases, it’s much more than that. Trying to navigate all of these things at once can be challenging and forcing the situation can be disastrous. In The Lodge, a father is determined to move on with his new love interest, but his children feel differently.

Richard’s wife (Alicia Silverstone) was not coping well with their separation and his subsequent engagement. Therefore, when tragedy befalls their mother, Richard’s children, Aidan (Jaeden Martell) and Mia (Lia McHugh), not only blame him but also his new girlfriend, Grace (Riley Keough). After several months, Richard (Richard Armitage) insists they must move forward and plans a family getaway over Christmas break… for all four of them. Grace is excited to get to know the kids, but the feeling is not mutual. Returning to work for a few days, Richard leaves them in Grace’s care. But an unexpected snowstorm results in possible cabin fever as Grace slowly unravels, leaving everyone at the mercy of some sinister ghost from her past.

Going to a cabin in the woods, particularly in winter, almost never ends well in movies. A blizzard, mudslide or sheer distance from civilization can completely cut-off vacationers from supplies and assistance. Secluded from the rest of the world and reliant only on each other for survival, one uninvited or unstable guest can turn the whole trip into a nightmare. These retreats do not always turn fatal, but sometimes death isn’t the scariest outcome. Trapped with little hope of immediate rescue, one should always remember — don’t poke the bear.

None of the characters are especially innocent in this narrative. Richard disregards his children’s feelings and thrusts them into an undesirable situation far before they’re ready. Grace similarly expects too much too soon, while also not ensuring her medication is safely stowed. The kids certainly make it worse in their adolescent, naïve desire to alienate Grace and make her feel unwelcome. The result of their mistakes is horrific and completely preventable. But all must live with the consequences of their actions… however long that may be.

Writers/directors Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz previously disturbed audiences with their debut feature, Goodnight Mommy. Macabre and torture gives way to emotional turmoil in this bleak modern-day gothic film. The thriller keeps viewers on the edge of their seat as their sympathy jumps from one character to the next. The narrative progresses slowly, allowing the unrest to settle over the picture and dig its claws deep into everyone’s psyche.

While the psychological war being waged inside the cabin is harrowing thanks to terrific performances by the actors, it feels like the sense of isolation could’ve been heightened or portrayed better. While it’s obvious they’re trapped and alone, the unyielding weather keeping them imprisoned together in the house and the fear it should induce doesn’t ever really get its due. The environment is a great and forceful personality that should be utilized in a story such as this rather than just pointed to as needed.

Nonetheless, this is an intense family drama with a fittingly dark conclusion.

Directors: Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz
Starring: Richard Armitage, Riley Keough and Jaeden Martell

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Sarah Gopaul is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for film news, a member of the Online Film Critics Society and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer-approved critic.

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