MAY 29, 2011
I think I finally figured out why I have so much trouble telling the legitimate movies from little indie productions like The Lodge - it's the posters/box art. Studios are so lazy now with their posters, they're using the same generic fonts and basic Photoshop techniques that are the best indie productions can hope for. Ever go on a font site and notice how they have like "Star Wars" and "Indiana Jones" or whatever fonts, but nothing new? That's because Paramount, FOX, et al are just settling for what they got. A shame really; I can't even remember the last great new movie poster. Hellboy II?
So anyway, despite a cover that could easily be mistaken for a Wrong Turn sequel or something, it's a fairly clumsy looking movie, in that every shot seems to be out of focus. At first I figured it was just a poor transfer, and I'm sure that doesn't help, but every now and then something like a door frame or knick-knack would be in perfect focus, so I'm pretty sure it was a production-long goof. Maybe it was realized partway through production and they decided to keep it that way in order to have some sort of consistency (indeed, I didn't really notice after awhile), but it does call attention to its amateur roots - if they knew what they were doing and/or had the dough, it would have been corrected/reshot.
And it's a shame, because the directors and/or their DP are above average for this sort of thing when it comes to blocking, camerawork, etc (then again, after yesterday's River Of Darkness, anything would look impressive). One of the trio is fond of shooting things from behind blades of grass or wood swings, which adds a nice bit of rural atmosphere (and seemingly pays homage to one of the most memorable shots in the original Chain Saw Massacre; the out of nowhere appearance of a chainsaw during the climax certainly adds to my theory that someone was a fan), and despite the fact that 90% of the movie takes place in the titular lodge, they manage to keep it sort of lively and visually interesting. I also quickly understood the layout of the place, which is important for the numerous chase scenes that peppered the third act.
They also got good performances from their leads. The Julie Benz-esque Elizabeth Kell and Owen Szabo (who looks like Scott Speedman dressed up as Dawson Leery) could have easily been insufferable with their sex-crazed demeanor and occasional bickering, but both actors make Julia and Michael feel like fully realized people, and I liked that the script allowed them to be logical on several occasions; when Julia is spooked by an alarm clock going off in the middle of the night, Michael reminds her that they haven't been there for a full 24 hrs yet and thus it wasn't anything to worry about, as perhaps the previous renter of the lodge had to be up early for whatever reason. Normally, a jump scare like this comes and it's never mentioned again, having served its purpose, but this little attention to detail (and a few others in the same vein) was enough to convince me that they weren't just going through the motions and were putting a little bit of effort into this stuff.
So it's almost sort of a shame when it devolves into a typical "tie 'em up" movie, offering precious little that we haven't seen a zillion times before. The movie actually starts with a vague, extended shot of someone (we can't see their face) killing two female victims (also unidentified), so I was thinking it was part of the climax. Plus, they waste no time in showing us that the "owner" of the lodge is up to no good, as he goes through their stuff and clearly doesn't know the area very well. But he's not doing anything violent, so I was thinking perhaps they were going to do a switcheroo on us, that the lodge guy was just some robber or pervert, and then another killer would come along. The credits help misdirect us by listing six people when we only really see four; those nameless, unseen victims who have a combined total of 7 seconds screen-time are given credit at the top of the film, AFTER their scene has passed and are thus never seen again! So I kept thinking someone else would show up. Well played, opening credits guy.
So there's no twist to it; the weird lodge owner is also the killer. What keeps it afloat is that he has a daughter that's just as sadistic as he is; I may be fairly sick of seeing people tied to chairs or beds and being tortured, but when it's a little girl doing it I can give it a pass. Still, it's ultimately the same old thing; he's disabled their car, they get out of the house but then realize they need to go back in for something, various power tools come into play... there's even an unpleasant/unnecessary rape (off-screen), as if they were making sure they hit every mark. I mean, sure, I've seen more of these films than the average moviegoer, but it's not so much that they're being typical - it's that they're being typical after a first half that seemed to be suggesting that they WEREN'T.
They also need to brush up on their foreshadowing skills; Julia tells us about four times that she's a kickboxer, including a lengthy bit where she tries to convince Michael to take classes with her. WE GET IT, she can take care of herself when in danger! It's a horror movie, our heroines always somehow learn advanced fighting skills when necessary. Besides, they don't keep her from getting tied up/raped/smacked around anyway. Michael also comments "Whoa, creepy...." on one of those slide down attic doors with the string hanging down. What's creepy about that? My mom's place has one, and that's the complete opposite of a creepy domicile.
I did identify with one bit of throwaway dialogue though; at one point Michael comments that the birds were keeping him awake. Recently, some birds that have chosen the tree near my window as their go-to perching place have begun chirping throughout the night, a phenomenon I've never been aware of until the past couple weeks. I mean, to me, the sounds of bird chirping means that it's almost time to get up (or if I've passed out on the couch, time to slump to bed), so when they start their shit at 11:30 pm, it not only annoys, it confuses. Apparently it has something to do with mating, but I honestly can't recall ever hearing them (at least, not nightly) at these hours in my life. Have birds not mated for the past 30 years? The esteemed Simon Barrett has also commented on hearing them, and I heard them coming out of midnight movies at the New Bev a couple times now as well, so it's not specific to my neighborhood. Stupid birds.
Anyway, it's not bad as these things go, but doesn't really offer much new, and the fact that it's out of focus the entire time makes it a tougher sell. But then again, you might want to check to make sure you're not actually involved with the movie; the end credits list no less than FORTY associate producers along with several regular and executive producers. There are towns in the US with smaller populations than the producer roll on this four actor/one location movie. Plus, all of these guys that are supposedly making sure that the money is being spent in the right places and that everything is running slowly, and no one thought to check the damn focal length?
What say you?