Arriving in theaters this weekend is The Lodge, the latest project from the directing team behind Goodnight Mommy, Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz. The film is centered around two kids (played by Jaeden Martell and Lia McHugh) who are at odds with their dad’s new fiancée, Grace (Riley Keough), and they set out to make her life a living hell on a family retreat to their snowed-in vacation lodge, only for things to take a dark turn, culminating in one of the bleakest moments we’ve seen in modern horror.
Daily Dead recently spoke with both Martell and McHugh about their involvement in The Lodge, and they chatted about what initially drew them into the project, their approach to their characters, working with the film’s directors, and how they intentionally distanced themselves from their co-star, Keough. This writer also asked Martell about another project he had recently been involved with, The True Adventures of Wolfboy, and how the process of working on that film was so different than anything else he’s ever done.
For each of you, what was the initial draw about coming into this project? Was it the characters? Was it exploring this disturbing world and themes? Was it working with the directors? Or was it a combination of all of those factors?
Jaeden Martell: For me, it was definitely Veronika and Severin. After watching Goodnight Mommy for the first time, I was really intrigued by their filmmaking. I was a little nervous about doing a horror movie just because I had done one right before. And so after watching Goodnight Mommy, I realized that it is more of a psychological thriller and I wanted to work with them and be a part of something that could end up like that, because it was so beautifully done and definitely affected a lot of people that I talked to that have seen it. So, I found it interesting and wanted to work with them right away.
Lia McHugh: It was definitely the script. I loved the original idea of it. I've never read anything like that before. And then I watched Goodnight Mommy and the way that I saw that it was directed, and the incredible cinematography and acting and everything really influenced me to do this project, and it really made me excited for it.
You both seem like very lovely people in real life, but these characters, they push things in some really disturbing ways. Can you talk about peeling back the layers on your characters, because it all starts off so innocently, but then it all takes a horrific left turn at one point?
Jaeden Martell: I think at the core of these characters, it's just them dealing with grief and the loss of their mother and their anger towards this one woman and how they want to take it out on her. Obviously, they go very far with it and so they're more complicated than you think. But at the base, at the core of it, it's just their pain. So, creating these characters and acting them out was just confronting that pain and dealing with that loss of their mother, who was taken away from them at such a young age.
Lia McHugh: And a lot of that was more the blame that they placed on Riley’s character for everything. We each had to do our best to identify with our characters and understand what they were feeling.
What I think is really interesting about this film is that there's a lot of the back and forth between your characters and Riley’s. It almost feels like a stage play in some ways, with how intimately everything plays out, especially once you get in that house. Did you guys get a lot of time to work out a lot of that back and forth, or did that all develop once you guys were on set?
Jaeden Martell: Yeah, that all really came out on set. We didn't have a lot of time to get to know her, but that was on purpose actually. So, Lia and I got to spend a lot of time together, got to know each other, and become comfortable with one another, and Veronika and Severin kept Riley separate so that we wouldn't create the same relationship with her. So a lot of that tension and back and forth happened on set.
The Lodge also has this very heavy theme of isolation running through it, and what that can do to someone. Were you guys really that removed from everything when you were in production? That feeling of isolation just really hangs on you when you’re watching it.
Lia McHugh: Yeah, the whole climate and the location we were staying at really helped us get in the whole mindset of characters. We were staying in a hotel two hours outside of Montreal in the middle of nowhere. There was nothing around us. You have to drive an hour to a Walmart to get ramen noodles and things, so there were challenges. The weather, how cold it was, really helped, too. The directors even wanted to turn off the heating, but they weren't allowed to do that. But it all really helped us get in the mindset of our characters and really ponder on the feelings that we had towards Grace and towards the whole situation. The climate was really, really helpful throughout filming.
I know you both have done some genre work in your careers, and I'm curious, from your perspectives, is there something really interesting about exploring these truths about humanity through horror storytelling?
Jaeden Martell: Well, I think for me it's not about the genre. It's about the characters and the story. So, working on this was definitely interesting because it's not exactly a horror movie. Obviously, it can be labeled as a horror movie, but it has so much more than that. It's more psychological and it makes you think about things and hopefully it makes people reflect on themselves. So, that's important for me. I know basically that if it's a good script that I'll grow as an actor by doing it and I'll learn new things from it and that people can relate to the film and have it affect them.
Lia McHugh: For me, it’s a lot like Jaden said. I enjoy doing drama. I feel like it's my strong suit. So, it's just not really about the genre. It's about how good the script is and who's attached to it and how much they love the project and what it will say and things like that.
Jaeden, before we go, I wanted to ask you about this film at Fantastic Fest I saw last year that I absolutely adored, which was The True Adventures of Wolfboy. I thought it was such a beautiful fantasy and you're so great in it. I just wanted to ask you about that character in particular, because you're wearing prosthetics and things like that. How different was the process for you on something like that versus working on films like The Lodge or even IT or Knives Out?
Jaeden Martell: Yeah, that was really an amazing but difficult experience working on Wolfboy. I had to go through three and a half hours of makeup every day and then about an hour to take it off. And it was just an interesting experience because I was working such long hours, but it made me really feel like the character, because walking around in that makeup, people would look at me and stare at me and laugh and be like, “Oh my God, that guy looks like a dog.” So, I really understood the character, and it was such a learning experience for me and helped me grow as an actor and as a person—just being able to empathize with other people. It was a difficult process, but it was all worth it. The crew was really incredible, and the director, too. But I'm glad that you liked it because I don’t think many people saw it.
[Photo Credit: Above photo courtesy of Philipe Bosse.]