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Character: Aidan Hall
Created by: Sergio Casci
Directed by: Veronika Franz, Severin Fiala
Written by: Sergio Casci, Veronika Franz, Severin Fiala
Produced by: Simon Oakes, Aliza James, Aaron Ryder
Other cast: Riley Keough, Lia McHugh, Alicia Silverstone, Richard Armitage
Release date: February 7, 2020
Premiere date: January 25, 2019 (Sundance)
Genre: Horror
Running time: 108 Minutes

A soon-to-be step-mother is snowed in with her fiancé’s two children at a remote holiday village. Just as relations begin to thaw between the trio, some strange and frightening events take place.


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Full Plot Summary

Laura Hall, separated from her husband, Richard, dies by suicide after he informs her he plans to marry Grace Marshall, a woman he met while researching a book about an extremist Christian cult. Raised in the cult, Grace was the sole survivor of their mass suicide, led by her father. Laura’s death devastates her and Richard’s children, teenage Aidan and young Mia.

Six months later, Richard announces that they will spend Christmas with Grace at the family’s remote Massachusetts lodge to get to know each other. Aidan and Mia uncover Grace’s past, including video footage of the cult, showing the deceased followers draped in purple silk with duct tape across their mouths reading “sin.” At the lodge, the children act hostile toward Grace and refuse efforts to bond with her, even after Richard departs back to the city for a work obligation. Grace’s unease is compounded by the abundance of Catholic iconography in the cabin, which causes her to have nightmares about her father. After being rebuked for watching her shower, Aidan prepares Grace a cup of cocoa.

In the morning, Grace awakens to discover that her belongings – including her clothing, psychiatric medication, and pet dog – are missing, as well as all the food and Christmas decorations. The generator has gone out, leaving all of their cell phones dead. Grace suspects the children have pranked her but finds their belongings missing as well. She notices the clocks have advanced to January 9. Aidan tells Grace he dreamed the gas heater malfunctioned and they all suffocated, and expresses fear that they may be in the afterlife.

Over the next several days, Grace – succumbing to anxiety, medication withdrawal, hunger, and cold – begins sleepwalking, and is tormented by disturbing visions and dreams, including the recurrent voice of her father sermonizing. She attempts to walk to the nearest town, discovering a cross-shaped cabin where she sees her father beckoning to her. She eventually travels in a circle, taking her back to the lodge. Buried in the snow, she discovers a photo of Aidan and Mia in a memorial frame, and inside, finds the children praying over a newspaper article detailing the deaths of all three from carbon monoxide poisoning on December 22. Aidan insists they are in purgatory, and hangs himself in the attic as proof that they are dead, only to inexplicably survive.

Grace suffers a nervous breakdown, which intensifies when she finds her dog frozen to death outside. She enters a catatonic state on the porch. Worried she might die of exposure, the children finally admit that they have been gaslighting her the entire time, having drugged her, hidden their possessions in a crawlspace, faked the hanging, and played recordings of her father’s sermons via a wireless speaker. With their own phones dead at last, the children unsuccessfully attempt to start the generator and bring Grace her medication, but find her convinced that they are in purgatory and must do penance to ascend to heaven.

That night, the children witness Grace self-flagellating by burning herself on the hearth. They hide in the attic but Grace confronts them in the morning, insisting they must “sacrifice something for the Lord.” Richard returns to discover an inconsolable Grace brandishing his pistol. In an attempt to prove her belief that they are in purgatory, she fires the gun at him, killing him. Aidan and Mia attempt to flee in the car, but get stuck in the snow. Grace forces the children back into the lodge, where she seats them at the dinner table with their father’s corpse and sings “Nearer, My God, to Thee.” She affixes duct tape reading “sin” to each of their mouths before contemplating the gun.


Production

The original screenplay for The Lodge was written by Scottish screenwriter Sergio Casci, which had been sold to Hammer Films. Hammer offered the screenplay to be directed by filmmaking duo Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala. The two agreed, though they rewrote a significant portion of the script, including the ending.

In October 2017, Riley Keough joined the cast of the film in the lead role of Grace. Prior to her being cast, Franz and Fiala were considering another unnamed actress for the part, but ultimately chose Keough. In February 2018, Jaeden Martell, Richard Armitage and Lia McHugh were announced as part of the film, with production beginning that same day. To establish chemistry between Martell and McHugh portraying siblings, directors Franz and Fiala took them on several excursions, including rock climbing and ice skating, to help establish a bond between the two before filming began. Keough was kept separated from the children pre-filming meetings to maintain a distance from them for their onscreen dynamic. Keough’s father Danny plays Aaron Marshall, the cult leader and father of Keough’s character, Grace.

Filming of The Lodge took place outside of Montreal in the winter of 2018 on a golf resort that was closed for the winter season. A creative decision was made to shoot the the film in chronological order to make the journeys the characters undergo seem more organic. The film was shot by cinematographer Thimios Bakatakis, a frequent collaborator of Yorgos Lanthimos. While shooting the interiors, Bakatakis, Franz, and Fiala deliberately chose to not frame shots at eye-level but rather opting for angles positioned from above or below the actors. Fiala commented that they intended to model the film after a haunted house movie, allowing the audience to initially suspect that the children’s deceased mother, Laura, may be in fact haunting the home.


Reception

The film had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 25, 2019. Shortly after, Neon acquired distribution rights to the film and originally scheduled to be released in the United States on November 15, 2019. It was ultimately delayed until February 7, 2020, when it was given a limited release in Los Angeles and New York City before expanding to 320 theatres in the United States on February 21, 2020.

During its opening week, The Lodge grossed $76,251 in six theaters in the United States. On February 14, the week following its initial release, the film expanded to 21 theaters, and had a weekend gross of $158,047. The film expanded to 322 theaters the following weekend, and concluded its US theatrical run with a total gross of $1,666,564 and an international gross of $1,015,220, making for a worldwide gross of $2,681,784.

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 74%.


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