It starts off strong enough. You got a shocking act in the first five minutes that sets things up interestingly, you got some cult shit, you got a great location, you got a good cast, you got a solid sense of atmosphere – baby, we got a stew going. And then after about the first act, you slowly start recoiling in terror, not because of things a good horror film should do, but because you realize this isn’t actually going anywhere. It’s just a shame, because the last film from Austrian directors Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala, Goodnight Mommy, was absolutely terrifying. It didn’t make much sense at all, but good lord was it scary.
The latest from Franz and Fiala follows two children, Mia and Aidan, who spend the days before christmas in a lodge (duh) with Grace (Riley Keough), the younger woman their father left their mother for. Grace’s haunted past comes back to wreak havoc on her attempts at connecting with the kids while they are isolated from the rest of the world.
You immediately pick up how big a debt this film owes to Hereditary, and I’m fine with that as long as it does a good job of it. You’ve got cult shit, you’ve got a weird obsession with showing dollhouses and miniatures, you’ve got a fractured family. But by the end of the film, you realize that it’s an insult to Hereditary to even mention that and The Lodge in the same sentence, so this is my obligatory Hereditary comparison that everyone is talking about, and we’re going to now pretend it didn’t happen, okay?
I hate to be this guy and do spoilers in my review, I never do it, but I’m going to now because you need to understand how stupid this film gets. Any film that earns a “pee-yew, this film stinks” status doesn’t get the spoiler exemption. So it turns out Grace was the daughter of the leader of a doomsday cult and the only survivor of their mass suicide. It’s a great setup, horror films are always improved by cult shit. Later in the movie, they all wake up one morning to found the power shut off, the pipes frozen and all their belongings gone including Grace’s much important pills. Throughout the film, they realize that they are in purgatory, that they actually died. Unfortunately it doesn’t really do anything with this, it just keeps plodding along not really building to anything of consequence. Then, in the climax, it turns out the kids faked the whole purgatory thing for no discernable reason, but they waited to long to tell Grace because now she’s gone too long without her medication and has lost touch with reality so now she’s trying to kill the kids because she believes the doomsday cult stuff is real and that is their path to salvation.
Michael Jordan was right when he said “fuck them kids.” because that is exactly how I felt. Fuck them kids. There’s no understandable reason why they do this “prank” and keep it going for so long, they are just shitty kids. I have no remorse for any character in this film. It’s just a giant waste of time and potential. God, some real shit gets into Sundance.