Beginning with close-up shots of a house’s interior leading to reveal they are that of a dollhouse — a visual stolen from the 2018 horror hit “Hereditary” — “The Lodge” purports to be an atmospheric-heavy horror/thriller with religious undertones. But instead, it turns out to be a lame imitation of the “The Shining” with no clear direction and a complete lack of pacing.
Richard Armitage’s character reporter Richard, announces his intentions to his wife Laura — played by Alicia Silverstone — that he is divorcing her and marrying Christian cult survivor Grace, played by Riley Keough. Laura responds by committing suicide, which deeply affects her children Aiden and Mia —played by Jaeden Martell and Lia McHugh.
Months later, Grace proposes that she and the kids spend Christmas vacation at their remote lodge in the snow while Richard finishes up work before the holiday. The family follows suit but when the weather worsens and cuts contact with the outside world, Grace’s troubled past begins to show in her personality.
“The Lodge” first premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in Jan. 2019 and was picked up by distributor NEON Films for a Nov. 2019 release date. However, without any official reason, the film was delayed to February. Beginning with limited releases in New York and Los Angeles the film is just now opening across the country. The likeliest explanation being that it’s downright abysmal and got tossed into the annual cinematic dumping ground of February with the rest of the heap. Considering the plot takes place around Christmas, it makes that choice feel misguided indeed.
The film has a promising outline, using a similar premise to that of the Stanley Kubrick horror classic “The Shining.” In it, a family of three are stuck in a snowed-in hotel all winter, slowly going insane from the evil within. There’s the additional theme of religious penance, the stepmom, Grace, was raised by her father in a Catholic cult where sin and purgatory were drilled into her from a young age. The opening act event — where Laura kills herself — is an eye-opening shock, and gives the story a strong foundation. Then, unfortunately, the rest of the movie happens, and it completely squanders any potential it had.
The problems begin with the plotting. The children are portrayed immediately hating their future stepmom since they see her as responsible for their mother’s suicide. This is despite the fact that they hardly know her and deem her a psychopath based purely on the ordeal she went through as a child.
Once they are alone in the cabin, they pull a prank on her by hiding all of their items in a crawl space and claiming they are now dead in purgatory. What their goal is isn’t clear, but as Grace’s sanity unravels they react with utter horror. What were they expecting? Is it a deliberate plot moment, that they’re the real psychopaths and it’s an ironic twist? Perhaps it would be if they had a legitimate motivation for their hatred, yet they have none.
This also takes at least an hour to happen, and it feels like an eternity. The pacing is stone dead, and feels as frozen as the snowy exterior. The strengths are few — the atmosphere is decent, in the sense that you really do feel cold and stuck in one place with nothing to do. The performances are passable, with some impressive turns from Martell and McHugh as the kids.
For a significant portion of the runtime, you are uneasy, but only because you’re not quite sure where it’s going. Is it a ghost story? A psychological thriller? A commentary on religious fanaticism? Ultimately, I think it’s more of the latter, yet poorly executed. Audiences don’t want to see a movie with half-baked Christianity themes and the downsides of spiritual conviction and penance are thrown around with no real framing device.
I couldn’t wait to get out of the theater for most of the movie. Normally for this genre that would be a quote of praise, but it was out of extraordinary tedium. This was seriously one of the most boring films I’ve ever seen in a cinema, and I can’t remember the last time I checked the clock so much during a screening. This is one lodge you don’t want to check in to.
Star Rating: One and a half stars
- Atmospheric visuals, chilly feeling.
- Good performances, with pleasant surprises from the kid actors.
- Promising set up.
- Slow pacing.
- Illogical plotting.
- Jumbled thematic elements.