3rd October 2019 (UK)
Five old university pals gather for a weekend to scatter the ashes of their friend, Jonesy, who drowned himself in the lake three years earlier. They settle in for a fun evening, entertaining each other with stories of murders, ghosts, zombies and possessions.
Mackenzie Crook, Dustin Demri-Burns, Laura Fraser, Sophie Thompson, Johnny Vegas, Kelly Wenham, Adam Straughan
In Abigail Blackmore’s Tales From the Lodge, a group of middle-aged friends gather at a remote cabin to scatter the ashes of one of their comrades who took his life three years earlier. Between the reminiscing and heavy drinking, the former university classmates trade spooky stories to pass the time. When night falls, however, a terrifying real-life nightmare begins to unfold for the group.
Billed as a fresh take on the comedy-horror subgenre, Tales From the Lodge‘s focus is certainly aimed more at the former. This shouldn’t really come as much of a surprise after looking at the cast, which includes the likes of British funnymen Johnny Vegas and Mackenzie Crook, but fortunately the jokes successfully land more than they miss. I wouldn’t go as far to say the film a ‘fresh’ take on the sub-genre, but there are plenty of interesting aspects throughout the stories to prevent it from being entirely predictable.
Each tale told by one of the friends is then presented as a short film and in a neat move is also directed by the one telling the story. This gives the individual anecdotes unique visual flairs and keeps things engaging. My personal favourites have to be Vegas’ uproarious take on a zombie apocalypse or Mackenzie Crook’s surrealist perception of what it is like to live with a dodgy heart. There are a few jolts to be had, but these are mostly cheap scares that stem from loud bangs or screams in quiet rooms.
Refreshingly, it’s never forgotten that these are stories being told in person, away from what we’re actually watching. Very frequently, there’s interruptions from the ‘real-world’ or one of the friends will ask to re-iterate motivations or actions of a certain character.
It’s a shame then that the stories themselves feel glaringly shoe-horned into the wraparound plot of scattering their friends ashes. I mentioned earlier that the dialogue feels natural and the chemistry between the gang is fantastic, but the tales come across as being forced into conversation, sometimes happening from out of nowhere only for them to return to what they were previously talking about. The majority feel unfinished too, with resolutions being either unsatisfactorily flat or not even having a real ending at all.
Still, it’s an enthusiastically acted, admirably energetic and deftly paced feature film debut from Abigail Blackmore. It slightly overstays its welcome in the third act and should have been trimmed a little more for maximum impact, but fans of anthology horrors such as Creepshow and Tales From The Crypt will enjoy their 90 minute stay at Blackmore’s lodge.
Energetic performances from a brilliantly cast bunch
Consistently funny with visual flair in short stories
Instigation of stories feels forced
Third act would have benefited from slight trimming