THE LODGE – movie review

Reviewed for & linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Veronik Franz, Severin Fiala
Screenwriter: Sergio Casci, Veronika Franz, Severin Fiala
Cast: Riley Keough, Jaeden Martell, Lia McHugh, Richard Armitage, Alicia Silverstone, Danny Keough
Screened at: Digital Arts, NYC, 2/5/20
Opens: February 7, 2020


The Lodge

A flagrant male fantasy appears during the opening moments of this film: that a woman would kill herself rather than accept being dumped by a fellow. The first quarter hour of “The Lodge,” from Austrian directors Veronnik Franz and Severin Fiala, is the most illuminating in terms of atmospheric brightness. It’s too bad that the fast pace with normal conversations will slow down to a crawl and end the movie with repetitiveness and far-away looks sustained by the close-up camera, that might lead some in the audience unable to repress their laughter.

Of course scenes of activity in cabins in the woods are a favorite of horror-meisters, the best in my opinion being Eli Roth’s 2007 “Hostel II,” which follows three American female art students in Rome who are directed to a Slovak village where they are kidnapped and taken to a facility in which rich clients pay to torture and kill people. The only torture in this entry is psychological with an occurrence in at least one scene that is simply inexplicable.

The film may recall the 1978 Jonestown Massacre in Guyana in which a cult leader demands that hundreds of his followers drink poisoned Kool-Aid because “God is waiting for you.” “The Lodge” focuses first on Richard (Richard Armitage), who urges his wife Laura (Alicia Silverstone) to speed up their divorce to allow him to marry Grace (Riley Keogh). Aside: Anyone who would toss out a woman that looks like Alicia Silverstone for anybody else might be more nuts any other character in this movie.

Dad wants his two sons, teen Aiden (Jaeden Martell) and younger sis Mia (Lia McHugh) to bond with Grace, his new squeeze, allowing the family to settle peacefully into new surroundings. To hasten the peace plan, he invites Grace to his rustic cabin during the dead of winter, then leaves her with the kids to finish up some business in the city. Truth, though, often comes out of the mouths of babes, as when Aiden rhetorically asks his dad “Why do you want to marry that psychopath?”

There is much evidence that things are not right in Grace’s mind. She is the sole survivor of a cult massacre ordered by the leader, depending on prescription tablets to keep what’s left of her sanity. But when things disappear in the cabin—food is gone from the frig, the adorable Maltese dog has gotten out in the blustery weather, and most important Grace is missing her pills—the stage is set for horror.

But the real horror is not  long in coming, though it was best presented in the opening scene. From that time onward the movie bogs down in long stares, cold shoulders, and a single event that indicates a possible sexual attraction by the older boy for the new woman. Melodramatic incidents such as the family unit’s falling through the ice (was that planned or was it an accident?) and visions by Grace of people from her past (hallucinations or real ghosts?) make way for the dramatic conclusion, which leaves questions unanswered.

No complaints about the acting. Richard Armitage is fine as the male adult unable to see what his teen boy intuits, and Riley Keough is spot-on as a woman who seems normal at first but who steadily loses her emotional bearing.

103 minutes. © 2020 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – C
Acting – B
Technical – B
Overall – C+

HAIL SATAN? – movie review

Magnolia Pictures
Reviewed for & by: Harvey Karten
Director: Penny Lane
Cast: Lucien Greaves
Screened at: Park Ave., NYC, 3/14/19
Opens: April 19, 2019

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If you go to the movies even rarely you’ll probably encounter a comical scene that finds a man and a woman in bed. The husband comes home early, and the guy in bed says, “It’s not what you think it is.” In a similar vein, “Hail Satan?” is “not what you think it is.” You’re thinking that this is one of the kooky cults that literally worship the devil. Instead you’ll find members of the Hail Satan? Fellowship to be a diverse mixture of humanity, some with tattoos and nose rings and ornate jewelry on their chests, others who are as straight as I am, notably a founder and leader of the cult, Lucien Greaves—a Harvard graduate who inspired groups in thirteen American states, in Canada, and in several European countries. If these people do not worship Lucifer, then what’s the point of giving this name to the organization? There is a point, but it’s not a good one. These good folks could have made their mark by “worshipping” a goat (actually they pretend to do just this), an elephant (Ganesh anyone?), the North Star, the pagan Pan, or anyone but Satan himself (or herself).

You may not believe in the way the Hail Satan? People go about their parodies and metaphors but from my point of view (feel free to disagree) there should be a separation of church. Yes, the First Amendment implies just that, yet beginning in 1864 when religious zeal was at a new height, “In God We Trust” began appearing on American money, and later, in 1956, President Eisenhower had us change our motto from “E Pluribus Unum” to (you guessed it) “In God We Trust.”

Now this is the kind of coinage that the Satanists should oppose, yet I suppose they’d given up on trying to abolish the mention of the Deity on money and in government buildings. The Satanic Temple does not believe the Ten Commandments belongs on government land, and courts have for the most part agreed. Yet if the State of Arkansas insists on putting the plague by the capital building, then the Satanists do counter with their own statue, one of Baphomet, a half-man/half-goat follower of Satan. Founder Greaves set the group’s monument up only to have to cart it away when the festivities were over.

Here they see an opportunity to turn a pro-religion law into their own beliefs. When governor Rick Scott pushed through a bill to permit prayer in Florida schools, the Satanists welcomed this by affirming that students could worship Satan with as much freedom as they would give to God. If you have not realized by now, members of the group are atheists, but people who believe that atheism is either boring or not comprehensive in that this tells you what they do not believe rather than what they do accept. Their tenets include acting with compassion to all creatures, continuing to struggle for justice, asserting the inviolability of our bodies (which makes them pro-choice), respecting the freedom of others including the freedom to offend, using science to test beliefs, acting to rectify mistakes, embracing wisdom and justice over all written and spoken words.

Christian groups have turned up, it seems, whenever Greaves’ acolytes garner media attention, some shouting that “you’re all going to hell”—to which one Satanists responds, in effect,” I look forward to that with excitement.” In fact the presence of Christian groups gives more publicity to the Satanists than they otherwise could have wished. The documentary plays up the interaction between two competitive groups—one believing in the First Amendment, the other believing that the U.S. is a Christian country. (The U.S. is probably 90%+ Christian but that does not nor should not make us a Christian country.)

This is a fun film with serious messaging, the humor and wit of the atheist group making it more than watchable. Director Penny Lane is in her métier since she had made films like “Nuts!” about the mostly true story of Dr. John Romulus Brinkley, an eccentric genius who built an empire with his goat-testicle impotence cure; and “The Pain of Others,” a documentary about Morgellons, a mysterious illness whose sufferers say they have parasites under the skin, long colored fibers emerging from lesions,

95 minutes. © 2019 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B+
Acting – A-
Technical – B+
Overall – B+