Back in 2014, when modern-horror was slowly shifting towards a new cultural identity, Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala debuted their feature length narrative debut Goodnight Mommy, in front of an enthusiastic Venice Film Festival crowd. The reactions were ecstatic , claiming the film to be one of the year’s best and most articulately horrific films of the early 2010’s. Continuously passing through festival onto festival, including TIFF and Fantastic Fest; the response and level of excitement to see what Franz and Fiala do next, was through the roof. Cut forward five years later, the dynamic directorial duo return with The Lodge, which is there first ever English-language film. While the hype that was dawned upon Goodnight Mommy has certainly died down over the span their five-year hiatus, The Lodge thankfully proves that Franz and Fiala aren’t just a one-trick pony.
Psychological horrors have frequently been featured throughout mainstream media this past decade; from video games to massive Hollywood productions. Just like in a similar tone and spirit to Goodnight Mommy, The Lodge is a patient slow burn that will leave audiences on edge throughout each scene of radical decision-making and gradual character development. It’s an isolated little flick, which utilizes the best elements from the duo’s previous endeavor, and expands them directly for a North American audience. Unhinged grieving children? Atmospheric production design? Themes on parental authority? There all featured here, sprinkled in different shades of narrative consistency and emotional weight.
Yet the one major downfall of The Lodge, is that it strangely feels uninspired compared to the rich, open-ended style of the duo’s earlier work. There was nothing quite like Goodnight Mommy prior to it’s release, where the expectations from international European horror were essentially completely altered, from the wave of praise and influence the film emitted. With The Lodge, it feels stylistically and thematically too similar to other modern horror films such as It Comes At Night and the obvious elephant in the room, Ari Aster’s Hereditary. From the usage of miniatures, to it’s messages of radicalized religion, mental illness, and internal suffering; The Lodge treads quite a bit of hefty material and subject matter from other arguably superior pieces of work.
Chillingly eerie, and relentlessly spooky, there’s plenty of fun to be had with The Lodge. It’s nothing new per-say, and it’s quite a let down compared to the director’s previous outings; but the general consensus regarding their latest film is one that can be appreciated from a more objective point of view. Riley Keough is magnificent as always, and the child actors surprisingly give it there all. This is one Christmas film that you shouldn’t miss out on during the winter holiday break, regardless of the film’s failed uninspired attempts at creating a picture that feels individually unique.
The Lodge screened at this year’s Fantasia Film Festival. The film will hit select cinemas on November 15th