The film's style has more heft than the content.
One of the main problems I had with 2018's critical darling Hereditary was that its style was at odds with its lurid, red-streaked story. Giving shout-outs to Rosemary Baby, it ultimately failed to strike a balance of tone. While Polanski's film knew when to employ its formal sophistication and when to give way to its freakier elements, Hereditary doggedly remained an exercise in formalism.
The Lodge suffers from the same issue.
But Hereditary was a much more skillful film with a haunting, meaty story at its core. Here the burden of style is on rather thin material.
It begins superbly with a genuinely shocking act that it spends the rest of the film trying to top.
Richard (Richard Armitage) is all set to marry his girlfriend Grace (Riley Keough) but his children, Aiden (Jaeden Martell) and Mia (Lia McHugh) are still mourning for their mother (Alicia Silverstone), who committed suicide because her husband was leaving her for Grace (though there could be other reasons that the film does not bother going into)
Hoping to thaw his children's emotions towards Grace, Richard plans a trip to an isolated lodge (where else?). Soon, he has to leave for an urgent work issue leaving the three together. The lodge gets snowed in and the three realize that they are dealing with much more than their resentments. Matters are compounded by Grace's past that includes her father's religious cult that led to mass suicide.
Strange things begin to happen almost immediately. All their food disappears - along with Grace's little puppy and more importantly - some pills that she was taking.
As you can probably tell, this is a good set-up. It evokes claustrophobia and the way characters are positioned, paranoia soon sets in. For the most part, the film delivers on its promise too. It is stylishly, deliberately paced with a keen eye for the atmosphere. The camera moves inside the lodge in a replica of its disorienting shots inside a dollhouse with little figures.
The film is brave enough to maintain its slow-burn... but not enough to let things go completely into the realm of madness. It's almost as if the film is scared of pushing its boundaries. There are deliberately confusing time-lapses and the audience is kept guessing but after a point, viewers will be able to reach the conclusion sooner than the film anticipates they will. Plus, this revelation itself is rather contrived because there is nothing in the film earlier to help make the character/s behavior convincing.
One of the weakest points of the film is the character of the father. We never get to know what he is thinking. The way he immediately leaves the family is also unconvincing and one wonders what made the filmmakers join the trip in the first place. He could just have been easily held back before rather than come with them and then leave.
The film's religious themes, potentially powerful, are also underutilized.
The performances are adequate, though in a framework like this if the psychological grounds are not solid enough, the only way for the characters to look is scared or defeated.
Keough is clearly the star here and she wrings out whatever vulnerability she can from her underwritten character. Armitage is wasted and his British fans will be especially disappointed. Martell is not new to the genre having starred in It earlier and if chooses the right films, he could be an actor to watch out for.
The Lodge makes for interesting viewing when you are snowed in but on the whole, it remains a wasted opportunity.
Watch it on Amazon Prime Video