by Hope Madden
It’s Christmas, and regardless of a profound, almost insurmountable family tragedy, one irredeemably oblivious father (Richard Armitage) decides his kids (Jaeden Martell and Lia McHugh) should get to know the woman (Riley Keough) he left their mother for. A week in an isolated mountain cabin during a blizzard should do it.
Dad stays just long enough to make things really uncomfortable, then heads back to town for a few days to work. Surely everybody will be caroling and toasting marshmallows by the time he returns.
Though everything about The Lodge brings to mind A24 horror—for a number of reasons, Hereditary in particular—the film is actually a Hammer effort. No longer the corset-and-bloodletting studio, Hammer’s millennial output has been sparse but often quite good.
Choosing to back filmmakers Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz making their follow up to the supremely creepy Goodnight Mommy should be a solid risk to take. Here the pair does not shy away from the body of “white death” horror that came before The Lodge, with eerie and sometimes humorous nods to The Thing and The Shining, among others, haunting the piece.
The film also brings to mind A24’s It Comes at Night, another quiet film that saw Riley Keough trapped in an isolated abode with unsettling family dynamics. Keough is riding an impressive run of performances and her work here is slippery and wonderful. As the unwanted new member in the family member she’s sympathetic but also brittle.
Jaeden Martell, a kid who has yet to deliver a less than impressive turn, is the human heartbeat at the center of the mystery in the cabin. His tenderness gives the film a quiet, pleading tragedy. Whether he’s comforting his grieving little sister or pleading with Grace (Keough) to come in from the snow, his performance aches and you ache with him.
A healthy ability to suspend disbelief will aid in the experience The Lodge has to offer, but there’s no denying the mounting dread the filmmakers create, and the three central performances are uniquely effective. Thanks to the actors’ commitment and the filmmakers’ skill in atmospheric horror, the film grips you, makes you cold and uncomfortable, and ends with a memorable slap.