FrightFest 20: Tales From the Lodge

A group of friends gather in the English countryside to scatter their friend’s ashes in horror anthology Tales From the Lodge.

Writer/director Abigail Blackmore won this year’s Screen International Genre Rising Star award at FrightFest, which is interesting for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the stories within the story were actually directed by the cast themselves. Each character tells a campfire tale directed by the actor, resulting in a fun mixture of sub-genres including zombies, sex demons and Lynchian dream sequences.

Secondly, the ending is notably retrograde in terms of representation. Of course horror can be transgressive, it just seems odd and frankly avoidable to award something so obviously contentious. This climax is unfortunate considering the moments of brilliance that precede it, as the talented cast (including Mackenzie Crook, Laura Fraser and Johnny Vegas) trade spooky and funny stories from their cabin in the woods.

What’s nice about these is the self-aware way in which they’re told, playing with the unreliable narrator idea and incorporating interjections from the rest of the characters in a way that recalls being at the pub and trying to get to the end of a story when everyone’s a bit drunk. Strong chemistry between the cast creates a homely, old-friends atmosphere in the lodge that slowly unravels as relationships dislodge in this wraparound storyline, directed by Blackmore.

The result is a very British horror-comedy that crackles with gallows humour and an enjoyable running gag about quiche, even if the ending does leave a sour taste.

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