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SXSW 2019: “Tales From the Lodge” Review

“Tales From the Lodge” is the debut feature for writer/director Abigail Blackmore of the UK. It had its world premiere when it played on Saturday, March 10, at 11:55 PM at the Stateside Theatre.

The film is a comedy-horror that features a group of friends who meet up at their cabin to pay their respects to a friend who drowned. During the stay, they take turns trying to freak each other out with scary stories of murderers, zombies, possession and more. But when something goes amiss, the horror gets all too real for the group. The principal cast includes Mackenzie Crook, Dustin Demri-Burns, Laura Fraser, Sophie Thompson, Johnny Vegas and Kelly Wenham.

This movie takes twists and turns over and over again. That doesn’t mean it’s hard to follow (although the accents sometimes are) — it just keeps you guessing until it flat-out tells you what’s happening. It’s an impressive debut, and one that will hopefully get a distribution deal after playing at SXSW.

One of the most interesting things about “Tales From the Lodge” is the stories contained within the larger narrative. Each story is stylized in its own way: one spends some time satirizing reality TV ghost hunters, while another uses comic book panels that add visual interest. During the Q & A that followed the premiere, writer/director Abigail Blackmore stated that each member of the cast directed the scenes of their own story. And what an intriguing, unique way to make them all feel a part of their characters.

“Tales From the Lodge” marquee at Stateside Theatre
Photo: Jackie Ruth

The film does have plenty of horror elements, but really the comedy takes the lead on this one. If you don’t love comedy-horror, this may not be for you. Some of it is raunchy, but it never feels gratuitous. Some of the best laugh-out-loud scenes in “Tales From the Lodge” are poking fun at horror tropes. It’s not quite like “Scream,” but it gets the point across with some meta commentary.

Tonally it’s a pretty light film — think “Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil,” “Cooties,” or something along those lines. In terms of the plot? Well, there’s not much to say here without giving anything away. If you’ve watched a lot of horror, you’re sure to see some parallels with great movies that have come before this one.

One more thing: The opening sequence is a gorgeous animated piece that Blackmore and her producers said almost wasn’t a part of the film at all. It’s something to behold, and a great expectation-setter right at the start. It’ll be a joy to see this film get picked up so it becomes available to a wider audience.

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Featured image credit: Hook Pictures

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