TALES FROM THE LODGE
Written and directed by Abigail Blackmore
As the title suggests, with its respectful nod to TALES FROM THE CRYPT, this film is a portmanteau. Stories are shared of an anonymous killer, a future zombie apocalypse, ghost hunts and an absurdly horrific heart transplant performed in front a trash rock band. All the while we keep returning to the place writer/director Abigail Blackmore starts her debut feature - an isolated lodge by a lake. It is here you spend most of the film watching and waiting as familiarity amongst a close-knit group of long-time friends, meeting up to scatter some ashes, unravels into contempt for one another and inevitably outs a few, choice secrets that would be best left unsaid. However, once they’re in the open the situation quickly descends into chaotic mistrust, betrayal and bloody revenge.
You get a real sense of a glorious, shared history among the group, and how life just got in the way – like anyone past 40 can testify. They’ve grown apart not out of spite, but out of time away from each other. Their happiness together is rooted in the past, not the present. Johnny Vegas and Sophie Thompson, as Emma and Russell, are the only couple with children and their palpable relief to be able to do what they want, when they want is in stark contrast with the rest of them, who have clearly had too much time on their hands to wallow in their regrets. In particular, Laura Fraser clearly relishes ever angry, bitter moment she gets to wrestle with as Martha - Queen Bitch of the party.
A neat original twist on the anthology form is the fourth wall breaking during the telling of tales. It really gives the audience an active role in the unfolding mystery. For example, characters are interrupted mid-story, by each other, which act as a reminder you’re watching a re-creation in their mind, when it pulls you back to lodge before returning you to the rest of their tale. Or when one of stories abruptly ends without any real conclusion. It nags away at you until one of the characters acts on the audience’s behalf to ask what happened next. It gives TALES FROM THE LODGE an organic edge and reinforces how comfortable everyone is with one another.
As well as strong, well-written characters, TALES FROM THE LODGE demonstrates a real love of the horror genre in the way Blackmore uses the short spooky tales to experiment with both scares, dark humour and knowing winks to her peers, but also in how the real drama, hidden in plain sight, within the wrap around reveals itself in the murderous finale.