The nihilistic The Lodge from co-directors Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz is as dark as they come. Mother’s committing suicide, absentee older men desperately holding on to youth, gaslighting children, and even a death cult for good measure is part of the packed bleak nightmare. Shot with a voyeuristic eye for detail, The Lodge capitalized on dread.
Grace, the only escapee of a cult who all committed suicide, is now trying to put the pieces of her life back together with older man Richard. Richard has two children by his former marriage, who believe Grace is responsible for their mother’s decision to commit suicide. When Mia and Aiden are left in Grace’s care over Christmas for some bonding time, things take a deadly turn and spiral out of control. Aiden and Mia have been tricking Grace the whole time convincing her they all died from gas inhalation on movie night. Aiden systematically convinces her they are in purgatory and must repent to get out. In reality, he drugged her hot chocolate, and the two kids have been making her doubt reality ever since.
The ultra-dark ending leaves plenty of room for interpretation. How much of what we saw was real? Was any of it real? How did a couple of kids and internet access devise such a diabolical plan? This is some next level chicanery. Clues, like breadcrumbs, were dropped early on if you knew where to look. Here is everything you likely missed in The Lodge.
That Dollhouse Was A Staging Ground From The Beginning.
This one, I hope, is pretty obvious. The only real question is, were the views of the room out of sequence, or was this in planning for months? One by one, the most critical scenes of The Lodge are shown staged inside Mia’s dollhouse. The fateful night where they all “died” and even Aiden’s “hanging” are all meticulously depicted. Even more disturbing than planning this kind of trick is the fact that the first time we see the diorama of the key three in the living room asleep is shortly before the funeral. That is six months before the events over Christmas. It is also before Mia breaks down, worrying about her mother’s immortal soul.
It’s All About The Sea Monkeys
As the kids are playing in their dollhouse, you see two sea monkeys in a tiny fishbowl. Just like Grace, the Sea Monkeys are at the mercy of Mia and Aiden. Additionally, they are continuously watched. Mia removes the only living things the monkeys and put them in a bag to take to the Lodge. Nothing living stays in the Lodge or the dollhouse. It isn’t a place for the living. Poor Brady, Grace’s dog, is one of many victims.
Aiden is a SociopathAnd Tricked His Sister Into Playing
This kid is a grade A monster. He is one sick twist. He formed some sort of plan to gaslight the shit out of Grace, and that is the beginning of that thought process. The level of commitment needed to pull off this hoax requires absolute determination. The removal of the decorations, all their belongings, and food was only one tiny part of the trick. Aiden made up obituaries, printed in Memorium photos, and laid in the snow, making hundreds of snow angels all designed to make Grace break with reality. He is the one who gives Grace the tainted hot chocolate.
Grace shows genuine remorse over the death of Grace’s dog later in the film because she isn’t a total monster. This is despite the fact that she may have left the door open on purpose to punish the dog for taking her doll. We know Brady didn’t do it, but Grace makes it appear he did instead of drawing attention to her sleepwalking. Aiden, on the other hand, doubles down and keeps the pressure on. He feels nothing either for poor unhinged Grace, or the innocent dog. He doesn’t cry at his mother’s funeral, which could be the sign of a stoic son hiding his pain, but it could also be a child devoid of emotion. In a video later, he is seen telling his Mom he is thankful for her. It could be a sweet moment, but it feels more manipulative than truthful.
Aiden And Mia Or Have Been Planning This Since At Least The Funeral And Are Unusually Patient
Aiden and Mia love to play pretend. They are good at it. Not only that, but they are also master manipulators. Everything from minor jabs about hats and more major ones like trying to drown Grace in a frozen lake is all designed to put her on edge and primed for programming. Most children would have given up their rage after six months but not Aiden and Mia. They bided their time and waited for just the right opportunity to present itself. Most kids I know can’t hold onto anything for a week, much less six months of fastidious planning and waiting.
They research harness rigging to pull off the fake hanging and record old sermons from Grace’s father off the internet. They even find a false wall in the basement to hide all the stiff that disappears. The only thing they didn’t account for was just how far off the rails poor Grace would go. I’m guessing they didn’t plan on their father’s death or their own.
Belief Can Be A Great Or Terrible Weapon
For Mia, her belief that her mother did not go to heaven makes her vulnerable and angry. Aiden is older and more mature and thus the planner while his sister is just a grieving accomplice. Mia and Aiden believe Grace caused their mother to kill herself completely, absolving Richard, their father. In reality, he wasn’t exactly the most sympathetic of ex-spouses or the most present of fathers. Grace, on the other hand, has been trying to outrun the warped belief system of her father’s cult. She isn’t innocent, just not solely guilty for Mia and Aiden’s parent’s divorce.
She has worked hard to rebuild her life and leave that behind. Richard found her when researching his latest book on cults. She was still fragile however and uses pills to medicate herself until the kids hide them. The two kids use what they learned from a deep dive on the death cult to literally drive Grace mad. She was raised in the cult to believe in repentance and she may have something to feel guilty. The only thing that really matters is all parties involved have deeply rooted belief systems that disastrously affect the outcome of the movie.
Grace May Have Been A Killer All Along
Grace may have killed all the cult members she was supposedly rescued from. Yes, the obvious answer is she was so traumatized by being saved; she has psychological scars. Grace recorded the entire event bringing into question why she was spared and why record the horrific thing in the first place. It is also likely that the miraculous saving of Grace was the only result there ever could be. She finally got tired of some perceived or real hypocrisy and killed the entire cult. The kids unwittingly triggered her psychosis. She fanatically punished herself by burning her face and knees and walking in the snow when her mind breaks. A small scar on her hand could be an early indicator of her predilection to self-mutilation or a sign of the cult harming her. Either way, Grace has baggage the kids took advantage of.
The Kids Use A Gas Heater To Gaslight Grace
There is nothing subtle about this. Mia and Aiden bring a gas heater into the living room during movie night and then drug Grace. After waking up from a night of hallucinations, she finds everything gone, including the heater and her pills. Phones, water, and electricity don’t work, so they are stranded. Aiden eventually tells her they are stuck in Purgatory through a series of calculated taunts and tricks. It all started with the gas heater, though.
There’s A Gun In Plain Site
For some reason, there is a gun lying on the doily topped table in The Lodge from the very first scene. That seems like a very bizarre toy to have for a dollhouse. Granted, everything about an exact replica of The Lodge right down to religious painting is weird, so nothing should surprise me.
The Two Movies They Watch Are Both About Things That Appear Different Than They Are
Franz and Fiala give us hints all along. A classic horror great, The Thing from John Carpenter, is, of course, about aliens that can make themselves look like the host they assume. They hide in plain sight. Jack Frost, the other film, is about a snowman who once was a human. Both films are telling us not to believe what we see and hear because it is all fake.
If only Grace had been able to devise a Litmus test similar to the one MacReady uses to reveal who was an alien and who was human. Everyone involved could have gone their separate ways angry but alive. Maybe even the poor Sea Monkeys and Brady?
The Clocks Are Set To Date January 9th
On January 9th, 1927, the Laurier Theater fire claimed 77 children’s lives. In 1941 Sammy Kaye sand Until Tomorrow, which went on to be a huge hit, and Richard Nixon was born in 1913. It is an oddly specific date to choose. For some reason, the kids have decided to make Grace believe they had been in Purgatory for seventeen days.
Whether you take the film literally and everyone but Grace is dead or figuratively and she helped the kids repent before releasing them. Regardless those kids are way too scary. For God’s sake, they sacrificed a dog, Sea Monkeys, and a woman’s sanity. Even after she was sobbing and clearly on the edge they kept pushing. That’s pretty sadistic behavior in anyone’s book. The Lodge is a slow burn of psychological torture. It isn’t for everyone, but for those who love drawn out torment, you can’t go wrong. It is out on Hulu today.
As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.