Tales from the Lodge - Grimmfest 2019
Directed by Abigail Blackmore
When I hear Johnny Vegas and Mackenzie Crook I instantly think of Sex Lives of the Potato Men. So when I see they are starring in a new Horror film called Tales from the Lodge I assume crass humour, sordid sex and downright disgraceful characters. Surprisingly this was nothing of the sort! I certainly got comedy, but it was reserved and sometimes held back and replaced with moderately gripping drama, with no signs of the vile film I expected to see.
Our tale begins with five friends who have met at an isolated lodge, bereft of any nearby facilities or phone signal (of course). They meet to commemorate their friend Jonesy who drowned himself three years earlier. Several drinks into their evening they begin to tell fabricated horror stories, trying to gradually one up each other, while unknowingly a horror story is unfolding around them.
It took me a good fifteen minutes to truly settle into this film. Expecting the silly humour to be laid upon me yet never arriving, I was taken aback. The humour was subtle and felt realistic among the group of friends. So, although the punch lines came, most felt utterly organic from five friends who genuinely felt like they had an unspoken bond between them. Gradually I started to question the unique angle of this film, what was the point? Although I was enjoying the companionship between them all, it all just felt a little odd and sometimes even depressing. But the real magic began when each character started to tell their individual horror stories, which were an outrageous blend of absolute fear and utter hilarity.
Not until the very end do you realise that each individual story we are transported into is actually directed in real life by the person telling it. So Mackenzie Crook, Dustin Demri-Burns, Laura Fraser, Sophie Thompson, Johnny Vegas and Kelly Wenham all put their unique stamp on the film, which is both fantastic and of course varying in quality. Crook’s tale is a surreal mind warped dream state, reminiscent of a ‘Saw’ trap directed by David Lynch. Vegas’s is a zombie apocalypse fantasy where he plays a ‘Kiefer Sutherland’ type. Nothing quite beats Laura Fraser’s segment, it is truly gripping and wildly funny. Making me feel like I would rather watch a full feature of that story than the film we got.
Tales from the lodge is not bad in any sense, it has jokes that fall flat every so often and pacing in the ‘real life’ sections had its flaws. Inherent when you are eagerly waiting and not really caring about the drama created. But the anthology horror presented keeps you on your toes and excited for the next tale you are about to face. Then despite the execution of the bulk of the story the ending absolutely hit the mark!