Alicia Silverstone, Richard Armitage, Riley Keough
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…a visceral chiller, with an impressive turn from Riley Keough.
Six months on from the death of their mother, Aidan (Jaeden Martell) and Mia (Lia McHugh) are struggling to come to terms with their father’s new fiancé, Grace (Riley Keough) – a young woman who escaped a suicide cult as a child.
To try and strengthen their relationship, their father (Richard Armitage) organises a family trip to a remote winter house. But after he is forced to return to the city for business, a snowstorm hits and the estranged kids and Grace begin to experience strange and frightening occurrences.
Cut from the same traumatic cloth as their debut Goodnight Mommy, Austrian duo Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala’s new horror The Lodge concerns another family dealing with emotional hysteria. Opening with a truly unsettling epilogue, the directors are becoming adept at manipulating their audience’s fears; exploring similar themes of despair, human frailty and motherhood.
The jewel here is Riley Keough – a vulnerable woman wrestling with her own tragic history. In true giallo-style, her first appearances on screen are fleeting and enigmatic; the camera catching her slip out the back of a garden or as an intangible silhouette outside a window.
Her attempts to bond and connect with the grieving children, played well by Martell and McHugh, are what the story initially hinges on and the destruction/regression that ensues is where the psychological horror really digs in its claws.
Their differing religious beliefs create many unsettling moments, including Grace’s discomfort at the sight of crosses around the household and a creepy omnipresent painting of the Virgin Mary. Eschewing cheap jump scares, the film’s musical cues and sound design is mostly effective and adds to its jarring and claustrophobic territory.
We also get eerie found-footage glimpses into Grace’s life in the evangelical doomsday cult – further amplified by her cult leader father being played by Keough’s real-life father (musician David Keough, in his debut role).
Franz and Fiala, who also co-wrote the screenplay, draw out the tension well – never letting us know where our sympathies should lie between the three central performances, as the ambiguous frights and (often implausible) red herrings accumulate. With obvious nods to The Shining, there are elements that draw to mind Ari Aster’s Hereditary – foreshadowing events with the use of dollhouse imagery and slow panning shots through the retreat’s dark wooden interiors.
Punctuated by a menacing score and finale that will resonate loudly, The Lodge is a visceral chiller, with an impressive turn from Keough.