The Lodge

Sometimes you walk out of a horror movie and think, “Wow, that was really good.” Other times, you walk out thinking it was good, then realize it's even better after you ponder it for a while. The Lodge is an example of the latter. The slow-burn story works its way to a suitably shocking ending that sends you away impressed. With time to mull over all the implications of that ending, though, the impact hits even harder. This is a chiller that sticks with you.

Aidan (Jaeden Martell) and Mia (Lia McHugh) are unhappy siblings. Their father Richard (Richard Armitage) left their mother Laura (Alicia Silverstone) for another woman. They've also endured a recent tragedy. Richard suggests the kids spend a few days at his lodge in the snowy woods so they can bond with his girlfriend Grace (Riley Keough). Aidan and Mia don't want to – their resentment toward Grace runs deep – but they eventually acquiesce.

To divulge much more about The Lodge would be to rob you of its surprises. What can safely be said (because it's in the trailer) is that Grace is the only surviving member of a religious cult, the members of which committed mass suicide. You might think you know right where the film is headed based on that. You don't. Instead of taking the easy horror route, directors Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz (Goodnight Mommy) go deeper, using it as a springboard to explore complex themes of grief, sanity, trauma, anger, and the abuse of religion.

For the first hour or so, the movie leads us down the garden path, making it seem as though the expected things are going to occur. Then we get a piece of information we didn't previously have, one that drastically shifts how we view the characters. Traditional assumptions of good and evil promptly go right out the window. The Lodge reveals that its primary concern is with a whole different sort of horror, namely the horror of what humans are capable of when they get locked into a mindset. When, for whatever reason, in a bubble or otherwise unable to pull back and see the larger picture, people are capable of profound acts of cruelty.

The Lodge delves into that concept in spooky style. Fiala and Franz, aided by Thimios Bakatakis' moody cinematography, make the building and its surroundings seem aptly chilly and isolated. The disconnection from reality that Aidan, Mia, and Grace feel becomes palpable, which in turn amplifies the disturbing events that transpire. All of it culminates in the final three minutes. You get a shiver from realizing what's happening; pondering what it means afterward suggests levels to the horror beyond those that are immediately apparent.

First-rate performances add immeasurably. Jaeden Martell (IT) projects just the right amount of What have I gotten myself into? vulnerability. Lia McHugh, meanwhile, does commanding work, most notably in a scene where Mia breaks down in front of her father, who has no clue how to respond. As Grace, Riley Keough expertly avoids all the cliches of someone dealing with trauma to create a figure we're simultaneously sympathetic to and unnerved by.

The Lodge is a picture that gets you with the power of its ideas rather than with cheap jump scares. Like the best works of horror, it has a way of burrowing into your brain, so that what you know is occurring below the surface is even scarier than what your eyes take in. See this movie and prepare for it to mess you up.

out of four

The Lodge is rated R for disturbing violence, some bloody images, language and brief nudity . The running time is 1 hour and 48 minutes.