SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for The Lodge. If you haven’t seen the film yet, proceed at your own risk!
We are still in the early weeks of 2020, but already this year has delivered an excellent, original piece of horrific cinematic entertainment in the form of The Lodge. The film is the second movie from exciting up-and-coming German directors Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz, and does a magnificent job slowly escalating its plot before pulling the rug out from under the audience with one hell of an ending.
It’s specifically the ending of The Lodge that we are here to discuss, as it is not only exciting and brutal, but also fascinating and complex. So let’s dig in, starting with a recap of how things play out as the film is winding down.
What Happens At The End Of The Lodge
The beginning of the end of The Lodge is fairly easy to identify: it's when Grace (Riley Keough) has a full-on mental breakdown. She has spent days in and out of consciousness, her dog is gone, and she can seemingly no longer differentiate between reality and hallucination. Her grip on sanity is loosened, and her instinct takes her out the front door of the house and out into the snowy wilderness.
It’s after she is gone that the audience learns the truth. Grace may have a traumatic history, but she is not crazy; despite Aiden’s insistence otherwise, they aren’t actually dead; and there aren’t supernatural forces at play. The simple explanation is that Aiden (Jaeden Martell) and Mia (Lia McHugh) resent their father, Richard (Richard Armitage), for falling in love with another woman after separating from their now-deceased mother (Alicia Silverstone), and they have sought revenge by psychologically torturing Grace.
Things go from bad to worse when Grace returns to the lodge from her icebound journey having found the dead, frozen body of her dog Grady, and she sits with him on the porch overnight – even as temperatures reach extreme levels. It’s only at this point that Aiden and Mia believe that they have pushed things too far, and they try and confess to Grace what they have done.
The problem is that they have indeed pushed things too far, as Grace is well off the deep end. Presumably returning to the practices she witnessed/was taught when she was in a religious cult as a child, she starts to perform acts of self-flagellation to punish herself for her assumed sins. She removes a burning log from the fire and kneels on it as she prays.
Understanding that Grace has become a serious danger to both herself and them, Aiden and Mia need to find escape or refuge, but are handicapped by their cell phone being dead. Their solution is to go into the attic and barricade themselves in until their father finally makes his way back to them. Staying safe for this long proves to be an untenable situation, however. Needing to use the bathroom, Mia makes her way back downstairs slowly and carefully… but the efforts aren’t enough. Grace not only manages to find her, but Richard’s gun as well.
The situation at the end of The Lodge then seems like it may take a more positive turn as Richard does finally arrive, done with the pre-Christmas work that kept him away, but that optimism drains quickly. Believing that she is dead and trapped in purgatory, and wanting to prove it, Grace shoots Richard with the gun and kills him instantly. Aiden and Mia try to escape in their father’s car after grabbing the keys, but wind up getting stuck on a snowbank and recaptured.
The final scene of the film finds Aiden, Mia, and Richard’s dead body sitting at the dinner table together, and Grace walking behind them while reciting a prayer. She applies a piece of duct tape with the word “Sin” written on it to the mouths of the children – another practice recalled from the religious cult – and while the credits roll before anything happens, it’s strongly implied that Grace then kills the siblings, and possibly herself.
Dark stuff, right? Well, let’s now dig into what it all means.
The Truth About The Mysterious Incidents Grace, Aiden and Mia Experience
As intimated above, The Lodge offers multiple possible explanations for the mysterious events that transpire as the film unfolds its story. Due to the horrific events that happened in Grace’s childhood, the movie makes it seem like it’s entirely possible that she is having some kind of mental episode that is resulting in lost time and both visual and aural hallucinations. Because it’s fictional story, the idea that the characters died and are living in purgatory is also a totally reasonable answer for all of the strange things going on.
What Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz come up with for the end of The Lodge, however, is arguably far more horrifying, and can be summed up with a single word: gaslighting.
While it's impossible to gauge how long the practice has been around, the form of psychological manipulation got its name from the 1938 Patrick Hamilton play Gas Light – which itself is a reference to the act of the antagonist in the story convincing his wife that she is going mad in part by telling her that the gas lights in the house aren’t growing dimmer and that she is just imagining things. In the 1960s it became a colloquial term referencing a victimizer working to manipulate the reality of their victim.
The act of gaslighting is foreshadowed in The Lodge when Aiden straight-up uses a gas-powered heater to try and warm up the titular dwelling, as it’s following that scene that everything starts to get “weird.” The siblings drug Grace’s tea, which gives them time to take everything in the cabin (including all of the food) down into a storage space. They are also responsible for shutting off the power and water, and while Mia maintains a working cell phone – which she uses to stay in contact with her dad – it winds up being another gaslighting tool, as they convince Grace that it’s dead and that Mia is just pretending to have a conversation. They even work to mess with perception of time, as the kids advance the date on the lodge’s clock.
Those are all rather simple things, but Aiden and Mia get extra cruel with planned out details. They manage to convince Grace that she is hearing the voice of her dead cult leader father by setting up speakers in the attic, and even create a fake obituary in a newspaper for their dad’s fiancé to find while searching for help. And, of course, it’s ultimately Aiden pretending to hang himself while remaining conscious that eventually sends Grace over the edge.
It should be noted that it wasn’t the intention of the kids to kill the dog, as it’s revealed that he got outside accidentally, but saying that they aren’t still responsible would be completely wrong.
Aiden and Mia are far from the first cinematic siblings to take issue with their father’s new girlfriend, but there are few who go to the extreme lengths that we see in The Lodge, and it’s highly disturbing.
The Significance Of Purgatory In The Lodge
Did you watch The Lodge and ever question why it was suggested that Grace, Aiden and Mia are trapped in purgatory and not just in regular old hell? If you didn’t, you may have missed one of the key themes of the film orchestrated by Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz along with co-writer Sergio Casci. In the same way that purgatory exists as a middle ground between heaven and hell, we as the audience are meant to ultimately understand both the good and the bad that exists in the story’s characters, and recognize their intentions even when it results in the most horrific of consequences.
What unfolds with Aiden and Mia is a prank that simply swings way too big, and winds up costing them dearly – but their repent at the end is real, and it’s not particularly complicated to understand the source of their pain. Seeing their parents separate must have been incredibly hard all by itself for them, but multiple factors made it so much worse. The fact that Grace looks a lot like a younger version of their mother must certainly be uncomfortable (huge props to the casting there), and their mom’s suicide following news of Grace and Richard’s engagement must have been traumatizing. Grace makes for an easy target in their grief… and things just get out of hand.
Speaking with Slash Film, Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz examined this aspect of The Lodge while noting that the good/bad duality isn’t something we regularly see in young characters on the big screen – typically they are either one or the other. With their second feature following the fantastic Goodnight Mommy, though, they wanted to buck that trend:
Severin Fiala: The problem is when the kids are either really evil kids, or pure angels. And we feel that real world kids are sort of in-between, or both. They’re innocent but also do bad things. We show things as we feel they are, even if it’s kind of a taboo…
Veronika Franz: ... We wanted to show people being both good and bad, guilty and not guilty. And I think it’s the combination of all of it and the lack of communication that creates the tragedy or the horror. We like that you always see shades of gray. You should not know from the first scene who you should like or not like because of the character being the good guy or not. We want you to like everyone and also at certain moments dislike them.
Of course, judgement is ultimately left up to the audience. While there will be some who walk away from The Lodge seeing the story sympathetically through Aiden and Mia’s eyes, there will also be others who find their actions beyond reprehensible and unforgivable. But that’s why it’s so much fun to dissect endings in pieces like this!
What did you make of The Lodge’s ending? Did you see it coming, or were you surprised? Hit the comments section with all of your thoughts, feelings, and opinions.