THE LODGE movie poster | ©2020 Neon

THE LODGE movie poster | ©2020 Neon

Rating: R
Stars: Riley Keogh, Jaeden Martell, Lia McHugh, Richard Armitage, Alicia Silverstone
Writers: Sergio Casci and Severin Fiala & Veronika Franz
Directors: Severin Fiala & Veronika Franz
Distributor: Neon
Release Date: January 31, 2020

The directing/writing team of Severin Fiala & Veronika Franz (they share script credit here with Sergio Casci) undeniably know their way around horror imagery and atmosphere. Eerie empty hallways, dolls that look too much like people, paintings that seem to sit in silent judgment – THE LODGE has it all. THE LODGE also has a good premise, but by the time what it is becomes clear, it’s just about impossible to remain invested in what’s happening.

The title structure of THE LODGE is an enormous, isolated building (it’s a family cabin that looks almost the size of the Overlook Hotel). Dad Richard (Richard Armitage), mom Laura (Alicia Silverstone), and youngsters Aidan (Jaeden Martell) and Mia (Lia McHugh) are city dwellers, but they’ve spent some happy holidays together at the lodge.

Now, though, Richard tells Laura he wants a divorce so he can marry his girlfriend Grace (Riley Keogh). The fallout is devastating. Richard decides that the best way for Aidan and Mia to bond with Grace is for the three of them to spend a few days together at the snowbound lodge. Richard will be at work in the city, to return Christmas Day.

This is the first, but not the last, of many huge gaps in emotional logic. Aidan and Mia are reeling from what’s just happened, they deeply resent Grace for her role in the family’s dissolution, and Grace has a somewhat worrying past. Even if none of this were the case, Richard’s insensitivity to everybody else’s feelings is so colossal that we wait in vain for it to be a plot point. But no, in the universe of THE LODGE, somehow supposedly sympathetic people demand things like this of their children and fiancée. This disconnect is indicative of what is – or rather, isn’t – to come.

So Richard heads out, Grace tries to make friends, and Aidan refuses to talk to her. Mia is very slightly more receptive, but only just. Then some weird things start to happen, and we try to puzzle out who’s actually doing what to whom, or whether something supernatural is afoot.

THE LODGE looks great, has an evocative, eerie soundtrack, and succeeds in being pretty creepy. However, despite valiant performances by everyone involved, the characters are written so elliptically that we can’t feel for any of them over the course of the running time. McHugh has a heartbreaking scene near the beginning, but even this can’t sustain us forever. With a lot of long, slow shots that emphasize the isolation and the cold, we have too much time to contemplate the fact that we’re stuck here with three people who aren’t doing much to engage, scare or intrigue us.

There’s enough here that we can envision a shorter, more propulsive version where we could just track the story mechanics and not wait to feel dread for anyone or anything specific. THE LODGE is artful, and it’s sometimes clever, but it doesn’t have the pacing to thrill or the heart required to hit home.

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