Mistakes were made.
Following the loss of his wife Laura (Alicia Silverstone) six months earlier, Richard (Richard Armitage) drags his reluctant children Aiden (Jaeden Martell) and Mia (Lia McHugh) to a family lodge for a holiday vacation. The plan also includes some bonding time for the children to get to know the new love of Richard’s life, Grace (Riley Keough), but the kids are unhappy with dad pushing a future step-mom upon them, especially since he was leaving their biological mother for her before “the incident.” After dear ol’ dad departs to work for a few days before Christmas as a snowstorm rolls in, the chasm unfortunately widens between the children and Grace… a rejection that dredges up unpleasant memories of being the child survivor of a suicide cult.
Red Flag, the movie. The trailer promises things going off the rails for folks trapped in a cold remote location with dire possibilities, isolated with only themselves to rely upon against the unknown. Is it a ghost story? Is it all imagined? Have The Strangers reached the Great White North? Co-directors Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz claim “no one is… a bad guy” in their story and “they’re all kind of victims in their own way.” Nice of them to say so, but something spooky is going on and it doesn’t exactly seem passive. Does the truth live up to the hype, or have we seen all of this before?
Cruel and manipulative with a dash of comeuppance… but is it enough? There is a pervasive theme of mental illness throughout the film, both in dealing with it and dealing with those who suffer from it. Coupled with massive amounts of irresponsible behavior and some seriously bad choices, it’s dismissive that a psychological thriller sidesteps the particulars when suggesting so much more. When things start to go predictably wrong and the underlying source is revealed — dancing around the particulars here to avoid spoilers — the film asks a bit much to maintain suspension of disbelief. Full of wintry imagery, religious iconography, and a heartbreaking performance by Riley Keough, this bait-and-switch slow-burn thriller delivers the dread while failing at logic.
One can see what the filmmakers were going for, a twist similar to The Boy. The impact of the final scene appears horrific yet cathartic, but the more you think about it, the less plausible it becomes when that perspective shift occurs. Fans of these kinds of films will sense missing information on several key characters, specially mom and dad as a catalyst to the impending situation; for example: what exactly does dad do, and is he actually using his trade to trade up? He also doesn’t seem to have a lot of concern for his children’s well-being, oblivious to the impact of his inappropriate attention to Grace in front of his kids. He’s only slightly less useless than Christian in Midsommar with about the same set of values. All of this is glossed over to get to our main story, but more attention to them could have deepened viewer connections to the characters, not to mention things like a mysterious cross-shaped building that merely exist without context.
Like a college hazing incident that goes horribly wrong, everyone is left thinking, “Well, what the hell did you think was going to happen?” For casual viewers who enjoy watching foolish folks douse themselves with metaphorical gasoline before playing with matches, The Lodge delivers the creepy goods and atmosphere. For fans of thrillers who immerse themselves in the cause and effect of psychological torture and hang onto every detail, more is promised than believably delivered, and Keough’s delivery of Grace was worthy of more.
The Lodge is rated R for disturbing violence, some bloody images, language, brief nudity, and one of these things is not like The Others.
Two skull recommendation out of four
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