TALES FROM THE LODGE (2019) [Grimmfest 2019 Review]

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tales from the lodge

Written and Directed by Abigail Blackmore
Available on DVD

After the death of their friend Jonesy a year previously, a group of old friends from university decide to meet up at their favourite woodland lodge retreat to spread his ashes at the nearby lake. Big on telling scary stories, the friends regale each other with spooky tales as they remember times spent in the company of their late friend. After a couple of days of laughter, reminiscing and mini-arguments, the weekend break draws to a close, but it seems their stories are nothing compared to the nightmare they’ve found themselves in.

TALES FROM THE LODGE is a British portmanteau horror comedy from actress, writer and director Abigail Blackmore. Following her brilliant, darkly comic short film Vintage Blood, Blackmore has brought some of Britain’s favourite comedic actors together in a tale of lust, loss and murder in a quintessentially British way. Echoing many of the friendships we have ourselves, Blackmore’s set of characters are the type that poke fun at each other, swear at one another and generally don’t mind being themselves – even if it causes arguments. The most argumentative of them all is Martha (Laura Fraser) who isn’t best pleased that lothario Paul (Dustin Demri-Burns) has brought his latest fancy-piece Miki (Kelly Wenham) along for the weekend. Cue lots of arguments and frostiness as Miki feels less and less welcome as the weekend goes on. Joining Martha and Paul are Martha’s husband Joe (Mackenzie Crook), who’s struggling with his health, and couple Russell (Johnny Vegas) and Emma (Sophie Thompson), who are just glad to be away from the kids for the weekend. With Miki the only one who didn’t know their deceased friend, she attempts to fit in with the group as they pay tribute to Jonesy at one of his favourite places – and eerily, the place of his suicide.

As a portmanteau horror comedy, TALES FROM THE LODGE doesn’t waste time in introducing the short stories within the film, as told by each of the characters. Sometimes the tales are told to the entire group whilst others are during a one to one discussion. The stories are a mixed bag but unsurprisingly it’s Johnny Vegas who has the funniest of the all as he tells an apocalyptic tale of zombie survival starring someone who’s similar to Kiefer Sutherland…and it just so happens to be Vegas wearing a trenchcoat and a blonde mullet! Much like Vegas’ quips in the audience, (yes, he was present for the screening and was jolly great fun after, during the Q+A, too), his role in the film presents many of the laughs, especially his banter with on-screen wife Sophie Thompson, alongside the sarcastic comments from Martha. Whilst these short segments are sometimes a little random, both in their placement and in content, they provide a nice variety to the story to somewhat beef it up before its eventual climax.

A slow-burner, TALES FROM THE LODGE is a mild-mannered effort that focuses on fun and playful banter rather than hitting you in the gut with either a heavy dose of horror or hardcore humour (though the ending certainly intensifies in the threat department). Its overall lighthearted approach may leave you yearning for more in either direction but for mainstream film lovers, this film will likely entertain. In what feels a very localised approach, film fans overseas may not get the British humour that flows throughout the movie and so it may be one of those films that works better domestically than internationally. However, some good ideas mixed with some enjoyable performances from the cast makes for a pleasing, fright-sprinkled frolic.

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

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About Bat 4425 Articles
I love practical effects, stop-motion animation and gore, but most of all I love a good story! I adore B-movies and exploitation films in many of their guises and also have a soft spot for creature features. I review a wide range of media including movies, TV series, books and videogames. I'm a massive fan of author Hunter S. Thompson and I enjoy various genre of videogames with Kingdom Hearts and Harvest Moon two of my all time favs. Currently playing: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Yakuza Zero and Mafia III.

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