Tales from the Lodge Movie Review
Written by Hamzah Sarwar
Released by Hook Pictures
Written and directed by Abigail Blackmore
2019, 93 minutes, Not Yet Rated
Grimmfest Northern Premiere on 3rd October 2019
Mackenzie Crook as Joe
Dustin Demri-Burns as Paul
Laura Fraser as Martha
Sophie Thompson as Emma
Johnny Vegas as Russell
Kelly Wenham as Miki
Adam Straughan as Jonesy
A group of old friends unite for a weekend at a remote cabin in the woods. Kindred spirits bonded by a weight of shared experience and a common mission: to scatter their deceased friend's ashes. Tales from the Lodge is built on classic horror tropes: the creepy rural setting, a typically creepy dwelling and enough throwaway characters to gradually dispose of.
Blackmore has taken the familiar and subverted it by throwing in some of Britain's comic treasures including Johnny Vegas. Each has their own story to tell and this horror-tinged anthology comes alive. It's a hit and miss exercise infused with an often hilarious and occasionally strained shot of dry British humour. With the acting leads directing many of their own segments, it's a mash-up of styles and tastes lending itself to a spectrum of giddy joy and sheer frustration.
The middle aged group of 40-somethings are comprised of friends at different phases of life. It's taken the group the best part of three years to decide to scatter their friend’s remains due to their busy schedules. Blackmore has fun with this, but there's more than what meets the eye. The friend’s suicide is a mere fact, a part of life. Something that happened. It's treated with a casual air that, perhaps unintentionally, is a crushing critique of how society has failed to take the growing epidemic of male suicide seriously.
There's Joe (Mackenzie Cook) and Martha (Laura Fraser), who are grappling with Joe's recently diagnosed heart issues; Emma (Sophie Thompson) and Russell (Johnny Vegas), basking in their freedom from their young children and finally, bachelor Paul (Dustin Demri-Burns), who has strangely bought new girlfriend Miki (Kelly Wenham) to the gathering. Its Miki's presence that antagonises the group. Why has a stranger invaded their personal space? Why is Paul trying to introduce her in such sombre circumstances? As events unfold it becomes clear that all is not what it seems.
It's this wraparound story that is interesting but never really captivates in the way it should. It's this feeling of missed opportunity that is the overriding one with Tales from the Lodge. The uneven quality of short films is expected but there are sparks of brilliance that are worth the slog, the real highlight being a claustrophobic hospital nightmare which is destined to terrify the squeamish. It taps into the primal fear of facing your mortality and the merciless feeling of being trapped at the hands of those in the white coat. Anyone who's spent time on the operating table will relate to the sensation of feeling, quite literally, trapped in a cage. The creepy car theft experience will make you think twice of who shares your vehicle, but it's the bizarre zombie outing and sexual demon segments that fire wide of the mark.
Blackmore's finest achievement, in her debut feature, is assembling a stellar cast and allowing for the natural chemistry and interplay between them. They are characters that you enjoy spending time with. While it doesn't quite come together, there are moments of real promise for a director finding her own voice.
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