The Lodge Directors Reveal How They Brought a Chilling Purgatory to Life

Back in 2014, filmmakers Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala delivered audiences Goodnight Mommy, a nerve-wracking experience that became a major hit on the festival circuit, cementing themselves a genre filmmakers with tremendous promise. Five years later, the pair delivered another major festival hit with The Lodge, which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival, resulting in a number of release date delays that kept fans waiting more than a year to dive into their latest feature. Despite the long wait for the film, the experience was more than worth the wait, as audiences have been given another chilling tale of paranoia that will leave them feeling unnerved throughout the entire ordeal.

The Lodge follows a family who retreat to their remote winter cabin over the holidays. When the father (Richard Armitage) is forced to abruptly depart for work, he leaves his children, Aidan (IT's Jaeden Martell) and Mia (Lia McHugh) in the care of his new girlfriend, Grace (Riley Keough). Isolated and alone, a blizzard traps them inside the lodge as terrifying events summon specters from Grace's dark past. recently caught up with the filmmakers to discuss bringing the film to life and what draws them to isolationist tales of terror. The Lodge lands in theaters on February 7th.

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(Photo: NEON) You two didn't only direct the film, but you're also credited as writers. How did the film come about?

Veronika Franz: There's more than one answer to this, unfortunately.

Severin Fiala: It was the spec script that was sent to us by Hammer films. After Goodnight Mommy, we didn't expect the success and there were agents that wanted to sign us and to send us tons of scripts involving twins, as if we were experts on that. And we didn't like any of this. At one point, we got one script that just had "Untitled Hammer Movie" and, as we are hugely in love with the '50s and '60s Hammer films, we hoped so much that we would like it, and we did.

However, it was making this a story that was a spec script our own and really bringing our style of filmmaking and our sense of what's interesting for us into that, which was still a long process. So, actually, we took it and made it our own, which killed lots of the fun that was originally there.

How different was the original script from what the finished film is?

Fiala: I think it was a perfectly written and easier to digest horror film with very witty dialogue. The Scottish guy who wrote it, Sergio Caski, he's very funny, wrote very funny dialogue. But we always want people to really choke on something in our film, as if they chew hamburger and choke on something. And The Lodge was maybe more lighthearted than that, so we gave it some more seriousness, we guess.

I think we also asked ourselves ... because originally, the film was basically pretty much over after the reveal, or the twist close towards the end, and we felt, "Okay but what would actually happen afterward?" That was actually one of our first starting points because it interested us in what happens next to those people stuck in the lodge. And actually that kept us going and that changed it a lot, we feel.

With most of the movie just being three people in a house, so much of the experience relies on the three main characters. What was the casting process like? What did the cast bring to this story that you might not have been expecting?

Franz: I'll answer the second question first. I mean, that's the fun of it, to work with kids. And sometimes we also can see that Riley is the grown-up kid, in a way. You never know what you will get and they do unexpected things. Also, with Goodnight Mommy, we always try to improvise and we shoot in sequence, so we can go along with them and mostly we end up where we never expected to end up because if you shoot the ending first, you always can guess what it would look like. But if you go scene by scene, as far as it's possible, then you're very surprised.

When it comes to auditioning, we come from a European background where you would audition all these people. In the U.S. system, we are only Franz and Fiala and not Quentin Tarantino. It's difficult to audition a lot of people, so we actually only audition the kids and when it comes to Jaeden, he always was our dream cast. But at first, he declined the part because he didn't want to play in another horror film. We auditioned other young men for the parts but never gave up, in a way. We tried to convince him, sent him our first film, Goodnight Mommy, and managed to Skype with him and I don't know how we convinced him, but we did.

Fiala: We were so nervous. We had this Skype and we talked like for 20 minutes without even taking a breath, eventually, Jaeden said, "Okay, I need to go now." And he had not even said anything else except, "Hi."

Franz: And actually we thought we f-cked it up because we said, "Oh, he thinks we are maniacs. Total maniacs."

Fiala: But he likes weird people.

Franz: Maybe all of them like weird people.

Fiala: That's the truth. I think Riley, also, is interested in people. She's a very honest person and is also honest with her personality. And so is Jaeden and so is Lia, and I think that is what they also like in us as directors. I think we knew that we had a connection with all of them because they're very intuitive and very open people and very curious people in a way of trying to find stuff. It's not about learning lines and being totally prepared in a classical sense, but more about trust and walking down a very dark path, in a way.

Franz: Actually, we are very proud of Lia because, as you probably know, she just has finished shooting [Marvel's The Eternals]. As I understood it, she plays the first child superhero and The Lodge is her first main part and we auditioned her, we always believed in her and we also fought for this decision. So yeah, we are proud.

Speaking of major properties, your two films so far have been independent films with contained settings. Would you like to tackle a bigger property in the future, either in subject matter or as a sequel or reboot of a familiar property?

Franz: It's funny you asked that because actually, Severin and me, we discussed it a few days ago because our next horror film, which we will shoot in Austria and Germany, is a period piece. It takes place in the 18th century and it's based on true events, but it still is about a house in the woods and basically three people there. It's again an isolated or intimate situation, but at the same time, we are writing a movie that takes place on a container ship. It's also a contained situation, in a way, but there are more people involved.

Fiala: We're never dogmatic about any of this. Our first film that we did in Austria was a documentary, then we did Goodnight Mommy that we did over here. I think whatever seems interesting to us, we'd be willing to take on as a challenge. I think there are no rules for that.

Franz: But we also have to say this contained situation, these intimate situations, like the three people, we also like it because it's like society under a magnifying glass and it gives you the chance to go deeper into it. To have more space and more time.

As the trailers show, these characters find themselves stuck in either a figurative or literal purgatory, as their isolation leads us to wonder if there are supernatural or real-life forces at play. The film ends on a somewhat ambiguous note, did you limit your own ideas as to not think about what would happen next in the story or do you know what's next for these characters and you just didn't want to confirm those ideas to the audience?

Fiala: I think we love our film, in more than one aspect, to be open for interpretation. Also, with the ending, I think it's how you are as a person that will change or have an effect on how you feel after the film ends, and that was important. To give the film that space that you can bring yourself into it. And I think that changes how the ending feels. We wanted it to encourage you to keep thinking, "Okay, what's happening next?"

They're all stuck with their issues and I think we wanted the ending to feel like that as well. We wanted the audience to choke on the ending or the ending to be stuck with the audience.



The Lodge lands in select theaters on February 7th.