The second narrative feature from Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala—following the critically acclaimed Goodnight, Mommy—The Lodge is similar in its approach to form, using genre elements to tell “a very dark family story.” Like the former film, the Neon acquisition centers on women and children, using horror to reflect on questions of trust and identity. Starring Riley Keough, Richard Armitage, Lia McHugh and Jaeden Martell, The Lodge is set in a remote winter cabin, exploring a woman’s tense relationship with her new stepchildren. Loyal to their mother—who has been cast aside in favor of a younger partner—the children make things uncomfortable for Keough’s character, as things get chilly and dark secrets come to light.
Sitting down at Deadline’s Sundance Studio with Keough, Armitage and McHuge, Franz and Fiala discussed their inspirations, and what compelled them to return to the child-driven horror pic. “We feel it makes horror films very interesting if they involve kids, because kids are always deemed innocent, in a way,” Fiala told Deadline. “We don’t like horror films where just one guy is the bad guy, and it’s very obvious. We’re more interested in…shades of gray.”
In addition to this narrative approach, there are also more practical motivations behind the choices the directors have made. “Working with kids, we really enjoy, because we feel filmmaking can be exhausting, or at some points, also boring,” Fiala continued. “But with kids, it’s less predictable. Some fun and some spontaneous energy enters the film, which is something that we really appreciate.”
Reflecting on their careers to date, the directors expressed their excitement at making horror films, at a time when audiences are hungry for them—when genre pics can be commercially successful, critically acclaimed, and even break through to awards season. In Fiala’s mind, it’s “this new wave of horror films”—films like Get Out, Hereditary and The Babadook—that has made this moment possible, challenging old ideas about artistic merit, and where we can find it.
While remarkable, this shift in attitudes toward genre films of all kinds is a fairly recent development, the collaborators note. “When we did our first film, Goodnight, Mommy, in Austria, we actually had a harder time there. Because there, people hate everything related to horror and genre,” Fiala explained. “They think it’s stupid, [but] when our film came out, they realized, ‘Okay, this is different.’”
Speaking to The Lodge, along with his co-stars, Armitage lauded the pair, and the way they approach the stories they take on. “I just love what Veronika and Severin do with this genre because they don’t really try to manipulate the audience,” he said. “They just tell the truth.”
For more from our conversation with the artists behind The Lodge, take a look above.