Warning: This post contains major spoilers for The Lodge.
The chilling ending of new psychological horror film The Lodge was foreshadowed from the very beginning, but it is unlikely you will see anything in this snowed-in nightmare coming.
Minutes into the movie, Laura (Alicia Silverstone) shoots herself in the head after her ex-husband Richard (Richard Armitage) tells her he plans on marrying the much younger Grace (Riley Keough). Grace is the sole survivor of a religious death cult.
Laura’s young daughter Mia (Lia McHugh) sobs over the fate of her soul. Her brother Aidan (Jaeden Martell) listens in from behind the door.
“She can’t go to heaven,” Mia cries, and Richard attempts a comforting reply: “No one knows where we go.”
It’s this line that teases at the film’s ultra-bleak conclusion, which explores the power, and immense danger, of belief.
Aidan and Mia believe they have reason to be wary of Grace, whom they deem “a psycho” from the get-go and blame for their mother’s death by suicide. Their father met the much-younger woman while researching a cult that left dozens dead, with the words SIN duct taped over their mouths. Grace, the daughter of the leader of the cult, was the only survivor and documented the suicide with a video camera recording. What the siblings don’t understand is that Grace is a victim of her father’s warped ideology, and trying desperately to build a normal life.
When it comes time to spend a few days over Christmas with Grace, alone, neither Aidan nor Mia are thrilled. Grace, however, wants to get to know her future stepchildren and build a better impression than the one she knows they have of her. Little does the viewer or Grace know, but the siblings have hatched a dark plan to drive their father’s soon-to-be bride mad.
Richard is supposed to return to the lodge by Christmas, and Grace thinks the quality time with her soon-to-be stepkids will be a necessary bonding experience. Instead, Aidan hides away in his room, while Mia not-so-subtly shows Grace a home video “present,” which heavily features their mom. Grace pops unidentified pills to cope.
Then one night, Grace, Aidan, and Mia are watching a movie when Aidan gets out a gas heater at his sister’s request. The trio wakes up the next day after Grace has a strange dream, to find not only the gas heater missing, but most of the stuff in their house gone. All the food in the fridge, their coats, and even Grace’s dog Grady are missing. Grace’s medication for an unnamed mental health condition is also MIA, which sends her into a panic.
As the days go on, Grace becomes desperate to get out of the lodge, even trying to leave without the proper jacket. When she returns home after hallucinating, she finds a photograph of Aidan and Mia with the words “In loving memory” at the bottom. Aidan, who previously shared that he had a dream they all “suffocated” when the gas heater caught fire, admits that he thinks they are all dead and that this is purgatory. Grace refuses to believe this, but Aidan reminds her that no one knows what death is like, so why can’t this be where we go?
This comes back later when Aidan presents what appears to be an obituary for all three of the people, with the cause of death smoke inhalation from the gas heater. Grace doesn’t want to believe they are dead, despite all this alleged “evidence,” but Aidan says he’ll prove it to her once and for all. He goes to his room and hangs himself with a rope above the stairs. Grace screams in horror until Aidan opens his eyes, alive. They can’t die — they’re already dead.
Meanwhile, Grace keeps hearing the voice of her father, the cult leader, demanding she repent for her sins. Is this more evidence that this lodge is personal purgatory? As she loses grip with reality, Grace becomes convinced that Aidan is right; that she is in purgatory, and in order to escape, she must repent.
Once she fully believes Aidan’s theory, Grace becomes a shell of her former self. She punishes herself by walking in the snow, then by burning herself on the logs of the fireplace. Aidan and Mia are horrified by Grace’s behavior and realize that they must put a stop to it. After all, they are the ones that caused it.
The truth is that Aidan and Mia fabricated the purgatory scenario to torture Grace. The hanging was staged, as were the obituary and photos. All of their things, including Grace’s medication, is hiding in the basement, behind a false wall. The one thing that Aidan and Mia didn’t plan was the death of Grace’s dog Grady, whom Mia advertently let escape into the cold by leaving the door open and feels terribly guilty about it.
Unfortunately, Grace can’t be convinced any longer that she’s not really dead. When Richard arrives at the lodge, he finds Grace with the gun he showed her was in the house earlier in the movie. She presses it to her head, convinced that she couldn’t die because she’s already gone. When Grace pulls the trigger, no bullet is in the barrel. She survives, but when Richard attempts to grab the gun from her, she shoots and kills him.
Grace drags Richard’s body to the dining room for a “family meal.” Grace forces Aidan and Mia to sing a hymn, then puts duct tape over their mouths with the words “SIN” written in black letters. The barrel of the gun has two remaining bullets, suggesting that Grace will kill Aidan and Mia just as she shot herself.
The final scene with Grace is a terrifying parallel to what happened with her father’s cult. He and his followers believed, without doubt, that dying in a mass suicide was righteous. Grace spent years fighting against her dad’s belief system and finding peace. Aidan and Mia recreated a similar situation in the lodge. Just as Grace was isolated from the outside world during her time in the cult, so was she here, without a phone or internet access to anyone outside. The only people she had to confirm her reality were Aidan and Mia — and they were hellbent on destroying it. When they realized it was time to stop the games, Grace’s mind was already gone.
Aidan and Mia’s cruel prank inadvertently turned Grace into the person she was running from. In a cruel twist, Grace believing their lie made it real.