Wednesday, April 1, 2020

The Lodge: What You Don't Know Can Kill You

 We were just pretending, Grace. We were just pretending.

The Lodge is an independent horror movie released in 2019 and is now available on demand. As with all my reviews, this will be an analysis of the entire movie, including all the spoilers. So if you have not seen the film and would like to preserve the gut-punch of the ending, go watch it on VUDU and then come back.

More than anything, this film is about unintended consequences and how we don't really "see" other people. The movie does this quite literally right off the bat. We get more than thirty minutes into the film before we get a good look at Grace, the film's protagonist. 

The first scenes are devoted to Laura (played by Alicia Silverstone), who commits suicide shortly after her husband, Richard, says he will be marrying Grace after their divorce is final.

It is important to note that Laura and her children are believing Catholics (while Richard, the ex-husband, appears to be lapsed). In Catholicism, suicide is the only unforgiveable sin. If you commit it, you cannot receive a Catholic burial mass, you cannot be buried with your family in a Catholic cemetery, and you cannot go to Heaven. All of this is sobbingly noted by Mia, Laura's daughter, after her mother's funeral.

Mia appears to be perhaps nine years old. Her brother Aidan is perhaps thirteen. He brings a blanket and sleeps on the floor next to his sobbing sister to comfort her. 

Six months later, Richard tells his two children they will be going to the family's remote winter cabin to spend Christmas... with Grace. Mia says nothing, staring blankly at her meal, while Aidan very calmly and quietly says he absolutely doesn't want anything to do with Grace. That she is to blame for the death of his mother. His father insists and that's that.

Before we finally meet Grace, we find out what happened to her as a child--and how she met Richard in the first place. Grace was the only surviving member of a suicide cult. They were under the leadership of a charismatic lunatic who emphasized physical punishment for repentance of sins. He also forced them all to pay the ultimate price for their sins... suicide. Grace was the only survivor and it's not clear if an adult neglected to poison her like the other children or if she simply declined to kill herself.

When we meet Grace, two important things become clear: 1) Grace takes prescription medication twice a day without fail; and 2) The children absolutely despise her.

Richard then leaves Grace and the children in the cabin. Alone. And the children will have their revenge.

It's hard to say what Aidan thought would happen when he drugged Grace and hid all her possessions (including her medication). I can't imagine what this grief-stricken thirteen-year-old boy thought would happen when he tried to convince a PTSD-afflicted survivor of a death cult that she was indeed already dead, and the three of them were in purgatory.

It's not hard to see where he got the idea. He watched The Others, just like I did. And he decided to punish Grace, to make her think she was in purgatory for the sin she had committed against his mother. Against him and his sister. But he's just a boy. And he could not possibly have known what his actions would bring forth.

It is never said what Grace's pills are. But as we see her desperation to find them and her rapid descent into psychotic episodes and fugue states, I suspect they were antipsychotics.

It is only after they see Grace sitting outside in sub-zero temperatures in house clothes (they hid all the coats and shoes), clutching her little dog who froze to death, that they understand they have gone too far. Aidan wraps a coat around her shoulders and says, "We were just pretending Grace. We're not dead or in purgatory. We were just pretending." It is far, far too late.

Even if Aidan had read her medication bottle, would he have known what the long word meant? Probably not. If he were older, would he have had a better understanding that Grace may not view her surviving the cult to be a good thing? I don't know.

The Lodge is marketed as a horror movie and it is certainly horrifying. But it is ultimately a tragedy of children lashing out in pain, having no idea of the consequences. Because how could they?

If there is a villain in this movie, it is Richard. He divorced his loving and faithful wife for a much younger and prettier woman, expecting his children to just go along with it. He brushed off their grief at their mother's suicide, shoehorning this other woman into their family despite his children's clear opposition.

Then he left them alone in an isolated cabin. With a woman they hated. Who was on antipsychotics. He knew everything about her experience. He had the footage from the cult, the police reports, everything (that's how Aidan found out about it). He knew exactly how tenuous Grace's grip on reality was. But "it'll be fine." For Richard, everything will always be fine. Except this time it wasn't. And Richard should have been able to see it coming.

Lord knows, his children didn't.

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