Richard has brought the kids over to see their mother Laura. But he has also something to ask her. He’d like to get on with their divorce. Cos you know his new girlfriend Grace? Well, they want to set a date for the wedding.
Laura nods numbly, struggling to take in the information. She moves slugglishy to the table and picks up a pistol. After fondling it for a little, she shoots herself through the head. The film is only a couple of minutes old.
After this success in communication, Richard talks with the kids, Aidan and Mia. Why don’t they all go away for Christmas to their lodge in the middle of nowhere? It would give them a chance to get to know Grace better. But the kids have already decided that they hate Grace, and blame her for their mum’s death.
Besides which, they’ve been looking her up on the Internet. Apparently she’s the orphaned daughter of a fundamentalist preacher, and the only survivor of a mass suicide that he engineered. Or, as Aidan asks dad “Why do you want to marry that psychopath?”
Pretty much as soon as they arrive there is a near-fatal falling into ice accident that had me shouting out in the middle of the cinema. Dad is still around to save things. But he has to go back to the big city to work. Before he goes he gives Grace an old family pistol, which she seems to use very adeptly. The Chekhov scholars are now eagerly anticipating the third act.
This is when shit starts to get really weird.
As a snowstorm develops outside, threatening to cut them off from the rest of the world, things start to disappear. There is no longer any food in the kitchen and their clothing has gone missing from their drawers. The electricity and water cuts off, meaning that they can no longer recharge their mobile phones. And Grace’s meds disappear, which doesn’t help her mental state. She starts sleep walking, having visions and hearing voices from God telling her to repent.
Why is all this happening? We are not told, and we are encouraged to consider different possibilities with differing levels of credibility. Are the kids fucking with Grace? Is she fucking with them? Are there metaphysical or religious reasons? After all, Mia’s scary doll keeps turning up in the strangest places, and the camera keeps panning to the eerie painting of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Aidan even suggests that they’ve all died and this is just what happens when your dead.
At this stage, I was seriously worrying that the film would end with one of two highly dissatisfying conclusions. Either that it was all down to The Unknown, which might be fine if we were living in the Middle Ages, but if you can blame everything on paranomal forces you throw all dramatic tension out of the window. Or that the whole thing happening in Grace’s fevered brain as her meds start to wear off.
Seeing as this seemed to be a serious possibility (and I don’t think just in my mind), let me explain why such an ending would be such a cop out. It is philosophically viable for me to believe that you and the rest of the world are figments of my imagination. It is not viable to imagine I have been dreamed up by you. Because this would rob me of any agency, including the ability to imagine that I am part of your dreams.
Similarly, if the film were just part of Grace’s imagination, what are we to make of Aidan and Mia? We see them making decisions and taking actions. If the film were to end up implying that they did nothing of the sort and it was all in Grace’s mind. I would have left the cinema feeling very cheated.
Fortunately, the film found a different explanation for why everything had been happening. Its all a bit contrived and makes us work a bit, but just about manages it without losing credibility. And with the mystery solved, we’re able to go back to the runny, jumpy, scary bits of people chasing each other and threatening to kill them.
The Lodge does contain a number of interesting ideas, not least about the mental instability caused by grieving your suicided mother or having been the sole survivor of a mass suicide. None of the characters is truly stable, which makes them all capable of random antisocial acts. This means that the horror is the result of individual acts by real people and not just from something nasty and inexplicable lurking in the woodshed.
And yet part of it was somehow dissatisfying. I had the feeling that occasionally the directors were using sleight of hand to unnecessarily confuse us, Which means that while we do feel unsettled (a success in this sort of film) I sometimes felt that this was the result of trickery behind the camera.
This means that ultimately I did feel a little cheated, which may be in part because horror is not really my favourite genre. But I do think its definitely worthwhile going and making your own mind up.