Picking a movie to watch is turning into the most exhausting decision. You have to choose which streaming service (Netflix? Hulu? …. Peacock?) and then, once inside, you have to choose your genre. And even if you know the genre (“Tonight’s a horror movie night”), you still have to pick the actual movie.
So many options. So few that look promising.
With so many options, you never know where you’ll end up 2 hours later. My fiance and I were sifting through the various choices on Hulu and starting to lose hope. We wanted something that promised scares, but also that wasn’t another generic slasher film. After a while, we settled for The Lodge, because
- The title + description seemed like a safe bet
- There were hints of a slow-burning, snowed-in, descent-into-madness plot
More than anything, it was the safe option. Two children and their soon-to-be step-mom, trapped in a big house, in the middle of a blizzard. It sounded a little predictable, but oh well.
It turned out to be anything but predictable. I have a lot to say about this movie, so buckle up. It’s one wild ride.
There are many different ways to open a movie, and plenty of options for a strong beginning. To grab the audience, to establish characters, to set the tone. I’m not sure I’ve seen any like this, though.
A series of Traps
I wasn’t super excited when the movie began. Right away, it establishes the suspense, with some foreboding music, shots of the children, and an unsettling doll house.
Then, it traps you.
In the first five minutes, there’s a death. The unsettling, out-of-nowhere kind. It’s one those moments that can only catch you on the first-watch, but it’s incredibly effective. This is Trap #1.
This death leads to the emotional pull of the story. The two children, now grieving, are incredibly lifelike. The young boy is played by Jaeden Martell, one of the few bright points from the It movies. Him and his sister make this movie what it is, and their great acting performances start right out of the gate. This is Trap #2.
Soon after, there’s a cult backstory introduced. Now, this isn’t unique, but it’s accompanied with a Sinister-esque video tape and one of the more chilling images you’ll see in a horror movie. Frightening backstories now promised, the film moves on and explores that relationship drama between the children and their soon-to-be step-mom, Grace. This is Trap #3.
By this point, we’re only 20 minutes into the movie, but I’m fully engrossed. It has all the makings of a surprise classic. The suspenseful tone is on-point. The cult backstory is promising and creepy. The characters are lifelike and you want the kids to be okay. After just 3 traps, it has you fully sucked in.
The first 30 minutes of this movie are nearly flawless. There is suspense at every turn. Every reveal is teased out, as the movie slow-burns its way to a thrilling, snowstorm nightmare. It’s a movie that makes you earn everything; nothing is given. It asks burning questions and then teases the answers out, so that you’re strung along and can’t look away.
Except for One Guy
There’s just one problem: the dad.
He’s utterly unlikeable. And the problem is, I don’t think he’s meant to be.
There’s this weird thing, when he’s introducing Grace to the kids, where he’s constantly like, “Hey, here’s Grace,” and then leaves them alone. When the kids have actively said they don’t want to meet her or even speak to her. He basically takes her in there, introduces them, and then just leaves. This becomes a whole thing in the movie, because he does it at least 3 times in the first 30 minutes.
Not only that, he’s just sort of weird. He’s the most one-dimensional character. He has no real motivation. And then he’s gone for, like, 3/4 of the movie. Which is fine, except that he’s one of only 4 or 5 characters we get to see.
If you get 5 characters, 1 of them dies quickly, and 1 of them is a stupid dad who is always either annoying, unlikeable, or unreasonable, there’s just not much to work with.
In a movie full of cult craziness and haunted (doll) houses, this guy is the worst part. He’s so unlikeable it’s unrealistic, and that’s the true issue with him.
This movie does all the little things well. The music is perfectly fit, the unsettling doll house plays an effective part. The director really establishes a tone, right away, and it never lets up. The lodge is frightening, it’s watching you, and nobody is sure who or what is causing all the mayhem. (Not the Allstate kind.)
Scene by Scene
Every scene hits the exact note it aimed for. There are emotional gut punches. Suspense-building transitions. Terrifying reveals. This movie prioritizes creepy visuals, and it’s an effective, maddening tool.
I wouldn’t say this movie is full of twists. Rather, it’s never stable to begin with. Everything is chaotic, all over the place, and it never gives you a stable foothold. Just when you start to understand, the movie flips things on their head, and you’re left scrambling for answers.
The acting carries it, but the writing is remarkable, too. It all adds together, bubbling the suspense. What’s more impressive is the movie acts in very subtle ways. There’s nothing forced, no heavy-handed setups. It’s organic, and it’s frightening.
I guess we have to talk about the ending.
I’m not gonna say I hated it. It fits with the rest of the movie, really. And I love ambiguous endings.
But this one took it too far.
Yes, there are some hints throughout. Yes, I don’t need every question answered. But I needed a few more answers than we got. You can’t tease something for basically the whole movie and then not explain it, or even hint at an explanation.
The ending itself is alright. It just has two flaws. It doesn’t fully explain the biggest questions (and doesn’t even touch on 2 or 3 subplot issues that I would’ve loved to see resolved.) And it’s predictable. In a movie where nothing was predictable, the ending was a letdown.
It’s a shame, really, because this movie was almost incredible. Instead, it’s just great.
This movie is pretty difficult to rate. Its peaks are high above anything I’ve seen recently. The acting is impeccable, and rarely does a movie so firmly and deftly keep the tension high throughout. This is one suspenseful ride.
But it has its flaws. There are some weak spots. Some unexplained questions. And the ending could’ve been a little more clear, and packed a little more punch.
That being said, it’s a movie that leaves you thinking, that holds you in its grip the whole time. Sure, you might be a little frustrated at the end. But you’ll also be blown away.