Genre: Horror
Premise: During their annual trip to an isolated cabin for Christmas, a family begins to suspect a supernatural force may be haunting them.
About: This script finished high on this year’s Blood List and comes from the writing-directing duo best known for giving us that creepy image of a mom with her face all bandaged up in the 2014 Austrian film, Goodnight Mommy.
Writer: Sergio Casci (current revisions by Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala)
Details: 78 pages

ich-seh-ich-seh-goodnight-mommy-01-e1430674293769

Yeah baby.

The micro-screenplay is baaaaack!! 78 pages! Join the revolution. 78 is the new 100.

Truth be told, I watched this duo’s previous film after seeing that creepy ass trailer that played all over the indie circuit, but came away asking, “Did I just watch a movie or a David Lynch fever dream?” It’s the blessing and curse of foreign films. You’re thankful to see something outside of the American movie system. But by the halfway point you’re always saying, “This writer sure could’ve benefitted from learning inside the American movie system.”

A recent example is Personal Shopper. That movie felt like one of those goofy writing experiments where one writer writes the first 20 pages, passes it on to another writer for the next 20 pages, who passes it on to a third writer who writes another 20 pages, and so on and so forth til the end. The movie LITERALLY starts out as a ghost movie and ends up a murder mystery. For some reason, the word “focus” seems to get diluted whenever it crosses the Atlantic.

So I don’t know what to expect from The Lodge. But let’s check it out.

10 year-old Mia and her brother, 15 year-old Aiden, are prepping to stay with their dad, Richard, for the weekend. While they get ready, you can sense that their newly separated mother, Laura, isn’t happy with the arrangement. And when she gets to Richard’s, he drops a bomb on her. The woman he’s seeing? Grace? They’re getting married.

Laura casually drives home, retrieves a gun, puts it in her mouth, and pulls the trigger.

Cut to a few weeks later where Richard proposes something to the grieving kids. They’ll go stay at their holiday home in the snowy wilderness of Silver Lake and get to know his new fiance, Grace! Oh, Mia and Aiden are just soooooo excited about that! Especially since Richard plans to head out to work for the week, leaving the kids alone with Grace to bond.

Mia and Aiden have good reason to be skeptical of Grace. Richard is a psychiatrist, and Grace was one of his patients. I don’t know what that doctor-patient thing is called. The Hippocratic Oath? Whatever it is, banging one of your patients is definitely not one of the tenants.

Oh, but it gets better. The whole reason Grace needs psychiatric help in the first place is she grew up in some creepy cult where they had you stab people and pour their blood on you during dinner and kill animals and all those other neat culty things. You get the feeling this woman probably isn’t the most stable domino in the row.

After Richard leaves, Grace tries to bond with the kids, but only pushes them further away. Her creepy sleepwalking isn’t helping matters. But where it really falls apart is when everyone wakes up one day to find everything gone. No clothes. No food. No power. No firewood. Grace blames the kids, but as the days pass, it seems like something more sinister is at play. Could the trio have died? Have they all turned into… ghosts?

Man, I loved this script at first. Then hated it. Then loved it again.

Let me explain.

The Lodge had a kickass setup. The mom killing herself was a shocker. Didn’t see that coming. Learning that Richard was a psychiatrist and Grace was one of his patients? Juicy. Grace having that cult past? Loved it. The kids being forced to stay in this remote house with this woman to get to know her? Conflict written all over that setup.

But then the movie got dumb. It became clear that the writers hadn’t thought about this relationship nearly as much as I thought they did. Richard is a non-factor. He leaves the kids here and is no longer a part of the movie – a plot piece so plastic, he should’ve had his own casing. The cult stuff started out cool, but was never expanded on. It felt very generic and vague, the kind of cult activities you would find in any Cult 101 Storytelling Manual.

And Grace was thinner than that 4k TV you bought on Black Friday. Outside of her cult backstory, we know NOTHING about her. The writers make the mistake of not allowing us to get to know the “real” Grace before she goes crazy at the lodge. For that reason, the “crazy” Grace was our normal. And that didn’t work. It would be like if in The Shining, Jack Torrance started off as “Here’s Johnny!” Jack Torrance.

Overall, there was a decided lack of detail in the details. Bathroom mirror scenes where someone has traced crosses in the fog, for example. The “crazy” horror character who’s no longer taking her crazy pills. Little kids speaking to people who aren’t there in the dark. Lots of spooky nightmares assumed to be prophetic. It wasn’t the cheapest form of horror storytelling there is (that would be jump scares), but it was whatever resides just above that level.

However, once the characters began to suspect they were dead, the story found its way back home. It was an interesting story choice. What if the characters in The Others found out they were dead at the mid-point of the movie instead of the end? What would they do? Naturally, you start to go insane, as you suspect that you may be stuck in this house forever. And that’s when this became more than your average haunted house flick.

But it was the subsequent twist and the ending that really placed this in the “must see” category. There are two great scenes at the end, one that involves a woman who believes she’s already dead playing chicken with a fireplace fire, and the other a shocking turn of events when the entire family is brought back together again. A great ending can deodorize so much shitty writing in a script. And that’s what happened here. The ending made me completely forget about all those earlier problems. And solidified The Lodge as a creepy flick that should do a proper job haunting you next October.

[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[xx] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: Your horror script needs ‘TALK ABOUT’ scenes – scenes that are creepy, weird, odd, unsettling, shocking – the kind of stuff people WILL TALK ABOUT after the movie. If you don’t have those scenes, you don’t have a horror film. You have a compilation of copycat scares from previous horror movies. The Laura suicide scene was unsettling. But it was the fireplace scene, where a Grace who thinks she’s already dead picks up a burning log, stands there with it, and allows it to burn her face, while we cut to the kids upstairs, and hear a screaming Grace slowly burning alive, that really freaks us out. Seriously, one of the first questions you should ask yourself after your horror script (and really after any script), is “What scene will everyone be talking about after this movie?”

  • klmn

    Not first.

    Time to end it.

    • http://insideechenrysbrain.typepad.com/inside_the_brain_of_ec_he/ E.C. Henry

      NEVER! It’s an honor. Don’t be a baby! Maybe not an honor to you, but it is an honor to the countless ten or so people out there who need the boost that, “first, bitches!” brings. It’s bragging rights.

      • klmn

        Use the time you’re spending on this mindless shit for rewriting. In another seven years you’ll have another draft of The Commune.

        • http://insideechenrysbrain.typepad.com/inside_the_brain_of_ec_he/ E.C. Henry

          I’m rewriting a novel now. 2nd in an epic fantasy series that I HOPE someday to get to Peter Jackson. Already got a script adaption done for the first two books in the series, and it turned out GREAT!

          As for “The Commune”. I’m open to rewriting that, but I was very disappointed by the lack of feedback from the Scriptshadow gang. You guys really didn’t get into like I hope you would. I can’t make you do things. It has to come from your heart. So when you say I should do another draft of “The Commune”, you should realized how hollow that comes across.

          • klmn

            Novels are written for a mass audience to read. Writing one – and a sequel – with the hope of getting it to a director is unhinged.

          • http://insideechenrysbrain.typepad.com/inside_the_brain_of_ec_he/ E.C. Henry

            No, it’s not. It’s called “The Lord of the Rings” / “The Chronicles of Nania” being written right under your nose, and you’re oblivious to what’s going on.

          • brenkilco

            ‘A novel is just an advert for the screenplay’

            C. S. Lewis. Or was it Tolkien? I never can remember.

    • Citizen M

      You achieve greatness, and you spurn it?

      O tempora, o mores!

  • scriptfeels

    Personal shopper does genre hop a lot, it inturrupts the viewing experience a bit, but i enjoyed it overall. It’s inspired me to try to come up with my own version of a ghost story for a scriot and i thought the text thriller was a unique element that i hadn’t seen executed as well. Also, the open ending gave the film deoth that it would’ve lacked otherwise. How would you have improved personal shopper? Would you have kept the tone similar to the ghost scenes throughout or just cut certain genre elements which didnt work as well. Appreciate the personal shopper comment as its been one of my favorite films from this year.

    • carsonreeves1

      The film has stayed with me. So it obviously worked on some level. I don’t like scripts, though, where it’s clear the writer changed their mind midway through the script, and instead of picking a lane and rewriting, kept the script as is out of, in almost every case, laziness.

      I would’ve gotten rid of the ghost stuff. It was kinda dumb, misleading, and ultimately unimportant to the story. I liked the Text stuff.

  • http://insideechenrysbrain.typepad.com/inside_the_brain_of_ec_he/ E.C. Henry

    Great post, Carson. Sounds like the “The 6th Sense” on horror steroids! https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/043d94e59af1486441d64513f31b0e7247bc48ba38f5d023df5ed6f154f13238.jpg

  • Citizen M
  • Marija ZombiGirl

    So… Grace ‘n’ Grady? Seriously?
    The first time I opened this, I bailed on p3 because 1. From the logline, I thought it was the wrong script and 2. It reads like a novel. Now that I’ve read it all, it reads more like amateur directors who have no clue as to how to write a script. Harsh words? Well, I’ve read too many scripts from French amateur directors that read the same irritating way by detailing every little single thing, leaving absolutely no room for an actor to do their job and also giving the impression that if you took out all those unnecessary details, there’d be maybe 50ps left.

    As for the story itself, it’s a weird mash-up of THE OTHERS, MAMA (right down to the father disappearing from the whole movie and turning up at the end) and whatever cool horror movie the “writers” liked right down to unscrupulously stealing an amazing long shot from Argento’s TENEBRAE which screams “uninspired amateur”. Come on, show us what YOU got, don’t copy-paste what you liked in other movies especially when it’s only there to show off. If that sort of homage was a regular thing in the script, ok, I can accept that it’s in there. If it’s not (like here), don’t point it out that one time – no, scratch that – don’t EVER point it out.

    [xxx] Urgh. Learn how to write a script and then come back and tell us a great story.

    • brenkilco

      Since you’ve already taken a bullet for the team could you give the appropriate spoiler warning and disclose this ‘great’ ending that saved the script for C. Cause after your comment, I’m sure not reading it.

      • Marija ZombiGirl

        I wouldn’t say that it saved the script but it was definitely a great idea. I actually liked the story because it’s the kind of story that appeals to me :) I just found it very badly written/constructed. The overall tone is very European which is what I liked about it. Still, it’s so empty that it felt like a short film.
        .
        .
        .
        .
        .
        .
        .
        ********SPOILER FOR THE ENDING*********

        So, Grace and the kids start to believe that they’re dead. Except they’re not – everything that’s happening is the work of the kids as revenge for their mom’s suicide and Grace taking her place. Thing is, they’re totally ignorant as to the extent of Grace’s madness… She truly believes that they’re all dead and that nothing further can happen to them so when Richard arrives, she shoots him to prove her point. Of course, he dies. And Grace and the kids stay on in Grace’s living dead nightmare… The ending is as freezing cold as that of THE SHINING.

        • brenkilco

          So some kids concoct a scheme to convince someone who so far as they know is a perfectly sane adult that they’re all ghosts. Luckily for the kids’s scheme the object of the exericise is batshit. But I’m still not getting this. It sounds ridiculous. What exactly do the kids do that sells this silly idea? Remove some furniture? The woman still gets cold, hungry, still feels pain. Presumably can still walk outside, drive or walk to a neighbor’s house or the local store. Make a phone call unless these twisted urchins swiped her cell. What am I missing?

          And I know medical malpractice is central to a lot of horror, from Frankenstein to Eyes Without A Face, but the set up here strikes me as eye rollingly contrived. How long did Dad intend to be gone?

          • Marija ZombiGirl

            Exactly. It’s all very contrived and made to fit the concept which is also what I meant by writers who don’t know how to write a script. There are good ideas in there but badly or even not executed at all.

            The kids do discover that Grace was a patient of their dad’s before going to the lodge but they still have zero reaction to a horrific video on his computer or to her nosebleeds, for instance. Nobody has any reaction to anything, really (= bad character work). As for what happens, it does go a bit further than moving around furniture :) As for the dad, well, it’s never explained other than “away for work”. And yes, you guessed it, he pops up right when the script needs him to.

            You wouldn’t like this script if you did decide to read it ;)

        • http://insideechenrysbrain.typepad.com/inside_the_brain_of_ec_he/ E.C. Henry

          Wow, that is a cool ending. Thanks for siting it, Marija ZombiGirl. I’m one of those people who DON’T mind “spoilers” when the topic is known and openly discussed, that’s to be expected.

    • Linkthis83

      So they’re Europe’s less talented Duffer brothers? ;)

      • Marija ZombiGirl

        Oh, don’t worry, we have our own ^^ (for what it’s worth, I don’t find the Duffer Bros. pretentious, just fanboyish)
        ;)

  • Citizen M

    Finished it. I generally don’t like horror, and this script hasn’t changed my mind. The first 2/3rds is very slow going, with horror only kicking in near the end.

    This would be a much better script if we got more about Grace in the beginning. Instead, we get lots and lots of shots of a plastic doll. Grace is the main character, and it is the children’s reactions to her, and her reactions to their reactions, that drive the movie. Not the plastic doll.

    If we had more insight into their motivations instead of their surface actions, and more understanding of their religious beliefs instead of endless shots of crucifixes and Virgin Marys with no context, this could have been a tense psychological thriller instead of a by-the-numbers, fairly conventional, horror movie.

  • Lucid Walk

    I agree with horror needing TALK ABOUT scenes.

    Ever since I saw IT, I literally can’t stop talking about the three doors scene. It was the only scare which wasn’t spoiled in the trailers, and that’s why it freaked me out so much.

  • Cambias

    TENETS!

  • brenkilco

    I used to be a tenant of the hippocratic oath. But the pledge of allegiance takes pets.

  • Scott Serradell

    A few of my favorite ‘talk about’ scenes:

    The horse’s head in THE GODFATHER
    The hallway scene in INCEPTION
    Jaye Davidson’s beautiful cock in THE CRYING GAME
    Chestburster scene in ALIEN
    Shower scene in PSYCHO
    The curb stomp in AMERICAN HISTORY X
    “Squeal like a pig” in DELIVERANCE
    Divine eating dog shit in PINK FLAMINGOS
    Any number of scenes from THE EXORCIST
    The ending of THE USUAL SUSPECTS

    • GoIrish

      Man, that curb stomp scene in American History X…

      • Scott Serradell

        I know. It’s one of those I wish I could unwatch.

    • http://dlambertson.wix.com/scripts Eldave1

      Great list.

      I would add the final scene from The SIxth Sense

    • Linkthis83

      Woodchipper scene from TUCKER AND DALE
      The Sally reveal in TRIANGLE (really love this one a lot)

      • Scott Serradell

        That TUCKER AND DALE scene was so wonderfully absurd I was laughing my ass off.

        But for woodchipper moments I still think FARGO takes the cake. In an already somewhat ‘off’ movie, the sight/sound of an operating woodchipper with a foot sticking out of it was strangely one of the most memorable images.

        Note to writers: When in doubt, add a woodchipper.

        • klmn

          Your mention of sight and sound of the woodchipper reminds me of the sight/sound of the chainsaw in Texas Chainsaw Massacre. That movie had a few memorable scenes – the chicken in the birdcage, Leatherface appearing with his chainsaw, “grandpa” trying to swing the hammer…

          A lot of memorable stuff for one low budget movie.

    • Scott Crawford

      Woman chopped in half from Gladiator.

      Happens so fast you have to go back and rewatch the film again to see it. And people did.

      Exploding head from The Bodyguard.

      That’s what the BOYS were talking about (also the glass scene in Ghost).

    • klmn

      One more – the “sword or the ball” scene from Shogun Assassin.

    • brenkilco

      The bank robbery in Dirty Harry
      The gas station conversation in No Country For Old Men
      The what have you done to his eyes moment in Rosemary’s Baby, and you don’t even see the eyes.
      The spider’s web final scene of the original Fly and the gross your eyes out climax of the remake
      The bridge explosion and the apocalyptic final shootout in The Wild Bunch
      The hall of mirrors in Lady From Shanghai
      Sonny at the toll booth in The Godfather
      Orson Welles in the doorway in The Third Man
      The bucking bronco nuke in Dr. Strangelove
      The Quato reveal in Total Recall
      The bath tub climax in Diabolique
      The cropduster in North By Northwest

      • Scott Serradell

        Bullet time in THE MATRIX
        Ride of the Valkyries in APOCALYPSE NOW
        “You talkin’ to me?” from TAXI DRIVER
        The ending of SEVEN
        The chess scene from THE SEVENTH SEAL
        Sharon Stone’s crotch from BASIC INSTINCT
        The car chase in THE FRENCH CONNECTION

        and on and on…

    • http://insideechenrysbrain.typepad.com/inside_the_brain_of_ec_he/ E.C. Henry

      I like the gorilla soldiers reveal in cornfield hunt scene in “Planet of the Apes” (1968).

      TRY to remember what set this scene up moments earlier. BRILLIANT!

  • http://dlambertson.wix.com/scripts Eldave1

    Think I will not join the micro revolution. Not shocking to me that the characters were not fully developed and shortcuts were taken in a 78 page script.

    • http://insideechenrysbrain.typepad.com/inside_the_brain_of_ec_he/ E.C. Henry

      I’m with you Eldave1. The micro revolution is a trend in the wrong direction. I favor “articulated visions”. This latest craze I think is just a justification for laziness, and makes us screenwriters look stupider than we really are.

      Screenwriters are the visionaries. Don’t water down that vision!

  • Poe_Serling

    The Lodge

    Just from reading the review…

    This script does seem to be pulling story strands from a ton of other horror
    flicks and crocheting them into its own scary handbag of some sort.

    Again, the true test is if fans of this genre turn up at theaters or tune in
    when it hits the streaming services.

    Often times, with the right marketing and such, these low-budget chills and
    thrills projects can turn a profit pretty easily… I guess in the long run that’s
    what producers are aiming for.

    and

    ” It would be like if in The Shining, Jack Torrance started off as “Here’s Johnny!”
    Jack Torrance.”

    Since its release back in ’80, that’s one of most common criticisms against the
    film:

    Jack N.’s character seemed to be a bit unhinged from the get-go.

    And as a viewer (many times over) of the pic, I tend to agree.

  • Malibo Jackk

    “talk about scenes”
    Can “talk about scenes” make for great movies
    — or is it just a coincidence that we frequently see them in great movies?
    (assuming there will always be exceptions)

  • ScriptChick

    I want to read this for myself, I mean it happens around Christmas, right? Perfect to get me in the mood for the holidays. Also, I just watched Coco and I recommend going to see it. Skip the long Frozen short at the beginning but once the actual movie began, I was caught up in the wonder of the world. And I think so was the lady behind me who was sobbing through parts of it.

  • Oscar

    In other news… Thanos just landed…