In The Lodge, a family of kids have to grow up too soon, and horror ensues

The Lodge (MA15+)

3 stars

The 1970s were a different world for the parenting of children. Helicopter Parents were parents who let who let their kids fly the family helicopter. Attachment Parenting was when your parent would attach a five dollar note to your jumper when they sent you down the shops with a note to bring them back a pack of smokes.

My 1970s parents entertained my sisters and I by letting us choose videos from Queensland's only Beta video shop, and they left us entirely alone to watch them.

This is why, at age ten, I watched The Shining, Death Wish, Dirty Harry and The Cuckoo with my eight-year-old sister. Completely normal.

This is also why I have a bit of a crush on the new film by Austrian horror wunderkind directors Severin Fiala and Veronica Franz.

This is a film about a family of children who have had to grow up too fast too soon.

Mia (Lia McHugh) and Aiden (Jaeden Martell) are packed into the car by their mother (Alicia Silverstone), off for a weekend with dad Richard (Richard Armitage). Mum sees the silhouette of her ex's new partner Grace (Riley Keough) in the window of the house when they arrive, but the girlfriend flits out the gate in the back yard as they enter the house.

A different kind of parenting in The Lodge. Picture: Unsplash

A different kind of parenting in The Lodge. Picture: Unsplash

Sending the kids to the shops for sweets, dad drops a bomb on mum. He'd like the divorce finalised so he can marry his new girlfriend.

Back home, alone, mum rearranges some design books on the coffee table, drinks a slug of red wine, and ends her life in the first of four scenes in this film that kicked in my 3pm piccolo and almost had me screaming out loud in the cinema.

A few months down the track, dad leaves the kids alone for a few days with their future mum in the family cabin-in-the-woods. The kids have their reservations about Grace's own past. Dad is a renowned psychologist and author, and Grace is the subject of one of his books about the religious cult her father led and in which she witnessed the entire congregation's mass suicide.

Grace has her own reservations about this snotty pair and their refusal of her every well-intentioned effort to engage. But a few days of a frozen winter alone in a remote lodge with creaking floorboards and haunted family memories bring the three together in the most terrifying of ways.

Most fun among the second-act scenes in this film, and for me nostalgic, was step-mum and children watching John Carpenter's The Thing, where another bunch of folk trapped in a lodge of sorts get picked off one by one.

This is an interesting film, in that it's hard to know where the filmmakers are going, and you're kept guessing throughout. I don't want to ruin that for you, so there's quite a bit I'd like to say in this review but will hold back. It is a sparse production, from the economical writing to the winter location. There are long spaces between the scares, between the dialogue. There's an amount of neutrality going on, something of a poker-face so that you as the viewer are imagining any number of horror tropes that might be about to happen to the characters. Sometimes you're right and often you're wrong. Which is a bit rare this days.

Shot beautifully if a little dark sometimes by cinematographer Thimios Bakatakis, one of the joys is the sound design by Paul Lucien Col with Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans' score.

I'm prepared to accept the narrative and scares as fresh, but the visual cues throughout of dolls houses feels a bit too lifted from the Toni Collette horror Hereditary and don't get any deeper than the visual.

The performances are spot on, especially Riley Keough who is fortunate to have her grandfather Elvis Presley's eyes, but more fortunate to have exceeded his acting abilities.

This story A derivative take on classic horror first appeared on The Canberra Times.