Tales From the Lodge @ SXSW – Midnighters Section

Horror-comedy done in a new and yet still very British way. There is plenty of dry humour and typical British pacing in this Abigail Blackmore (first film) helmed film which had its world premiere at SXSW. While I think a film like this will be either hit or miss depending on the audience who turns up to see it at a particular screening, it is a film which is successful in its goals – to keep us guessing, earn some laughs and be creepy.

In the middle of a forest there is a cottage in which five old friends since university meet up for a weekend of fun and tribute. The fun part is that they are going to catch up, drink and married couple, Russell (Johnny Vegas – Grimsby, The Libertine) and Emma (Sophie Thompson – Gosford Park, Four Weddings and a Funeral) are going to have time together without their kids. Tribute will come in the form of the putting the ashes of their friend Jonesy, who committed suicide three years ago, in the lake he drowned in.

Each takes a turn telling a ghost story trying to creep out the others. Tensions are already at a high as Paul (Dustin Demri-Burns – The Spy Who Dumped Me, Bridget Jones’s Baby) has brought along his new and much younger girlfriend, Miki (Kelly Wenham – Double Date, Good). Martha (Laura Fraser – from television’s Better Call Saul) is especially ticked off and distracted by the fact that her husband, Joe (Mackenzie Crook – Christopher Robin, Muppets Most Wanted), is having heart problems.

Things go from tense to more tense when the five friends realize that they are actually themselves in the middle of a unravelling horror story which might claim their lives. Nerves and friendships will be tested.

Fun meshes very well with gruesome here. It is a combo that has been done before and yet this one feels fresh because of the updates which have been done. We have all seen films in which a group of people get together (sometimes around a campfire, lol) and try to outdo each other with creepy or scary stories. Competition style. This one involves five middle aged friends in an isolated cottage in the woods doing just that. This time there is more than meets the eye going on. You get the humour, interpersonal relationships, bickering, tragedy, health issues, and how tiring it can be to parent. All wrapped up with an eventually blood soaked ribbon.

Fans of old school horror films like Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Carrie will be very familiar with the way this film looks. It follows along the well worn path forged by these films and the like. Each of the stories told by the friends has their own particular look.

With her debut film Abigail Blackmore announces herself as a diligent director who shows she knows how to frame a story and get laughs in odd places. Expect more laughs from her film than horror in the future.

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