When the trailer for Veronika Franz & Severin Fiala’s “The Lodge” first dropped last year, my main takeaway was how spot on the casting of Riley Keough and Alicia Silverstone was. The two actresses could easily pass for relatives in a film – which is what I was hoping for in this feature.
While this turned out to not be the case with the new horror movie “The Lodge,” the casting of these two was definitely intentional and still fitting for the story. Neon Films has been somewhat gaining traction as a possible rival to A24’s own stellar rep for releasing quality independent films, and here we see the former almost challenge the latter.
The beginning of “The Lodge” feels like a knockoff of Ari Aster’s “Hereditary,” which was one of the best horror films of the past decade. There’s a traumatic death in the family, visual metaphors using a miniature dollhouse, a main character’s past association with a cult, and of course, an eerie and ominous music score. But by the mid-point, it starts to feel like its own thing.
Keough’s Grace is a lone survivor of a notorious religious cult from her childhood and becomes involved with recently divorced family man named Richard (Richard Armitage). His kids, Aiden (Jaeden Martell) and Mia (Lia McHugh) resent Grace for not being their mother, Laura (Silverstone). When Grace, Aiden, and Mia are stuck in the family’s lodge for an extended weekend, things begin to get strange and surreal.
Ironically, the most interesting moments of “The Lodge” are in the first half, when it’s toggling between inspiration and plagiarism of “Hereditary.” I think Franz & Fiala could have had a lot of potential here, especially with their previous horror film, “Goodnight Mommy,” being a hit with critics. Unfortunately, what should be an effective slow burn in “The Lodge” runs out of steam by the third act. There’s a plot twist that is revealed like an afterthought with hardly any effect, and by the end, the characters aren’t likable enough for us to care about the outcome.
The cast, especially Keough and Martell, are impressive throughout the feature, and the atmosphere is creepy, though a bit redundant. But plot-wise, there are better films already out there with similar themes you can already enjoy.