The Lodge movie review: stuck in miserably mushy snow

part of my Directed by Women series
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The Lodge red light

MaryAnn’s quick take…

This exasperating movie is so obnoxious it could be deliberately trolling us. Wants to have its ambiguous cake and eat it, too, smothered in a gloomy frosting. *extremely pinches nose in despair*
I’m “biast” (pro): really like the cast
I’m “biast” (con): not a fan of most movies labeled “horror”
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
women’s participation in this film
female codirector, female coscreenwriter, female coprotagonist
(learn more about this)

First of all: No. No. Why, dude — suddenly single dad to traumatized young children — would you leave said shocked and distressed kids with your *checks notes* new fiancée who is also *checks notes* the sole survivor of her own massive childhood trauma, which you, dude — as her *checks notes again* fucking therapist — should know has left her incredibly vulnerable and perhaps not fit to watch over anyone’s children, never mind your own?

*extremely pinches nose in exasperation and despair*

I can’t. I just cannot with this movie. The Lodge purports to be the latest thing in horror, or something, but, well, they said the same about Midsommar last year and Hereditary the year before (and sure, probably, if you loved Midsommar and Hereditary and they didn’t register with you as deeply problematic, you might find this one creepy too; anyway, this isn’t from Ari Aster, if that matters). But: no.

The Lodge Riley Keough Jaeden Martell Lia McHugh
Merry fucking Christmas.

If I thought The Lodge was supposed to be a condemnation of men’s utter idiocy, especially as fathers, maybe I could get behind it. Worse, though, I think that maybe it is intended as such, but, wow… Again, I reiterate: Hell. To. The. No.

(I mean, look: I’m a ragey feminist who is looking for reasons to hate on men — if it makes you feel better to think that — and I still cannot get behind this stupid-but-thinks-it’s-smart movie.)

Okay, so, Richard Armitage (Ocean’s Eight, Pilgrimage) — whom I adore and, perhaps smartly, he barely appears here — leaves his kids (Jaeden Martell [Knives Out, It: Chapter Two] and Lia McHugh) with his intended (Riley Keough: Logan Lucky, It Comes at Night), whom the children barely know but definitely resent, in a remote mountain lodge in the run-up to Christmas. As a way for everyone to get to know one another. He has to work but will join them later. Seriously, fuck this guy, which is an attitude that the movie doesn’t share, much less recognize. And still the setup feels so obnoxious, so positively guaranteed to end in disaster that you’d be forgiven for thinking that the movie is deliberately trolling us.

And, indeed, it doesn’t go very well, for obvious down-to-earth reasons. And then it turns worse, for reasons that could be supernatural, or maybe not, but probably the latter because there really isn’t any other explanation, and yet which are in either case completely banal, offering no insight into anything: not the human condition, not love in all its many iterations, not even passive-aggressive biological attachment. But yet also only in a way that, if there’s any explanation for it at all, demonizes mental illness, and demonizes coping mechanisms in response to suffering and grief, or–

The Lodge
What bodily fluid does red make you think of? Blood. Horror!

Even as I am so down on this damn movie, I still might be giving too much credit to it. It’s entirely plausible that writers (with Sergio Casci) and directors Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz honestly believed they were exploring what it means to suffer, to be haunted, to not understand what is real and what is fantasy because of how you have been raised. Like: Religion! But I can say as a diehard atheist: Also nope. Or, like, the warpingness of parenthood, or the warpingness that comes as a child with trusting too much in adults. Also no. (Fiala and Franz’s previous feature, the German-language Goodnight Mommy, about the abuse of trust that parents can engage in, is also a big ol’ no from me.) The absolute mishmash of psychological motivations ostensibly at work here is an infuriating blend of, well, a whole lotta nothing, really. This is a miserable movie that wants to have its ambiguous cake and eat it, too, smothered in a gloomy frosting of oppressively grim, gray, and claustrophobic visual design.

There’s a another older movie that I wanna say that the limp, obvious The Lodge made me think of, but to name it would be a spoiler for this movie. Except sort of not, either. Because where that other movie works on multiple levels, whether you want to see it as concretely “factual” (at least as far as its otherworldly elements can take that) or merely metaphorical, this one doesn’t work on any of the levels you might stretch to grant to it.

Basically, fuck these movies that you cannot even talk about, even to say, Just don’t waste your time with it, because all they have going for them is a vague “please don’t spoil” vibe.

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