Tales From the Lodge - Grimmfest Review


Directed by: #AbigailBlackmore

Written by: #AbigailBlackmore

Starring: #MackenzieCrook, #DustinDemriBurns, #LauraFraser, #SophieThompson, #JohnnyVegas, #KellyWenham, #AdamStraughan

Grimmfest Film Review by: Darren Tilby

Tales From the Lodge derives inspiration from the Amicus films of the 1960s and conveys its story with a portmanteau flair; albeit with more emphasis placed on the connecting account. The result is a down-to-earth horror anthology film that’s surprisingly affecting. All in all, the film never really strays too far into anything serious; remaining planted in the absurd humour, it does so well. This is a real crowd-pleaser.

Five old university friends, all now in their 40s, gather at an isolated lodge to scatter the ashes of their friend, who drowned himself in a nearby lake three-years earlier. They settle in for a weekend of drinking, smoking, and entertaining each other with ghost stories. But as the night draws in, the group of friends – all of whom are dealing with their own mid-life crises – begin to realise that all is not what it seems. The real horror story is forming around them.

There’s an engaging central group of great British actors here: Johnny Vegas and Sophie Thompson star as family man and wife, Russell and Emma. Mackenzie Crook and Laura Fraser star as a childless couple, Joe and Martha. While Dustin Demri-Burns stars as Paul, who has brought his ‘outsider’ girlfriend Miki (Kelly Wenham), along for the weekend. And while everyone was brilliant in their own right, it was Johnny Vegas and Sophie Thompson who stole the show for me. The chemistry between this on-screen married couple was sweet, relatable, tragic and wonderfully played.

Unlike many anthology movies, there’s much more importance placed on the framing story (the story of the five friends), which is written by writer/director Abigail Blackmore. Each of the individual stories – told by the five friends – were written by the actor/actress telling them. The result is an overarching plot that feels concise and affecting, and individual stories that are personal to each character; offering a window into their mind.

There have been some marvellous creative decisions taken in regards to these stories, and great running gags throughout the film in general. There is a fantastic animated intro, and a great comic book sequence in Johnny Vegas’ zombie apocalypse tale; while the ‘speculative screaming’ joke had me laughing, without fail, every time. There are a plethora of references and takes on the classic cabin in the woods set-up: including the age-old trope of the conveniently dead phone, Friday the 13th lakehouse setting, and Sleepaway Camp intricacies.

Blackmore clearly knows and loves the genre. A genre she not only lovingly pays homage to here but manipulates; adding her own twist onto the usual proceedings and fully utilising the excellent ensemble cast of British actors. The decision to stay more comedic was, in my opinion, the right one to make, and plays well to the strength of its cast. Tales From the Lodge is an unoffensive, funny, and incredibly pleasing piece of filmmaking.