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Religious Themes In Horror: The Lodge

the lodge

A look at how religion affects the main characters in The Lodge, Saint Maude, and Midsommar... Part 1 of 3

After enduring a traumatic loss, people can often find themselves searching for a way to understand and cope, as they both grieve and process the event. The lead characters of The Lodge (2019), Saint Maude (2019), and Midsommar (2019) turn to religious ideas/practices to find a great meaning, or to simply try to turn their back on the very notion. These movies feature heavy religious themes, none framing believers in a positive light. The main women in these films have experienced something horrific that significantly shakes up and alters them for the rest of their lives. 

In The Lodge, Grace was the only survivor of a mass suicide inspired by an extremist Christian cult, orchestrated by her father. She is anxious around any religious objects. Unfortunately for Grace, the lodge her fiance brings her and his children to for a winter vacation is decorated with religious imagery. Grace appears eager to join her new family and leave religion in general behind her. However, she still sees everything through the symbolic meaning of a religion she turned away from. When her fiance is called away back to work, Grace is left to care for his two children. One morning, Grace and the children wake to find they are completely isolated with no power and no working phone. The previous night, the date was pre-Christmas. After they wake, it is January 9th. Vivid memories from her past begin to surface, in addition to strange dreams that cause her to sleepwalk. The son suggests they have been sent to purgatory and strengthens his argument by hanging himself from the stairs to prove that they cannot die again. Grace cannot handle this, and her mind shatters, as it fails to comprehend their situation… further distorting her understanding of reality. She falls into a catatonic state for a time and reemerges reverted back to the mindset of her cult days, still convinced they are in purgatory. When her fiance returns, Grace shoots him to prove they cannot die, which he most certainly does. Grace sits them at the dinner table with their dead father, tapes “SIN” over their mouths presumably to kill them before herself to purify their souls. 

Grace, raised with extremist beliefs in The Lodge and spent much of her adult life trying to leave all that behind her, and only lasted a couple days with two prankster children to fully accept they were dead. Grace quickly snapped back into her devout religion, even after years of pushing it away. Unfortunately for the fiance and his kids, her childhood was ingrained with self-harm, a strict religious code, and was supposed to end with her committing suicide with everyone she knew. We can clearly see that since Grace went as far as murdering her new family, she wasn’t simply pranking the children back. The “SIN” tape over the children’s mouths while holding the same gun that moments earlier killed their father is a bit too extreme a retaliation, even for children who are aware of her past. They convinced her she was trapped in purgatory, unworthy of admittance to Heaven. Her previous reactions to anything religious in contrast to her calm preparations of a suicide ritual show that her lifelong doubts of the cult’s ways have been replaced by a renewed absolute faith in what she is about to do… kill two kids and herself to gain God’s favor and a place in paradise. 

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Religion has proven to be a consistently harmful presence in her life. Her doubting along the way saved her from certain death as a child, and kept her safe as she recovered from her traumas to attempt to live out comfortably the days the cult tried to convince her to discard in The Lodge. Her downfall began as religion crept back, unwelcome, into her life and this time she gave herself over to it completely. We never see any signs God even exists; all the religious symbols are lifeless, cold, and discarded from inhabitants long dead. They belong to no one, forgotten as they were when someone before gave them power only by believing in it themselves. We see no heavenly visions, only Grace sleepwalking through her worst memories. Her traumatized mind splinters memory and reality to create its own unique blend of skewed perception. As she withdraws from her medications, she replaces it with the religion that convinced everyone she knew to kill themselves as a means of salvation. 

She gives herself over completely to the warped notion that they need to seek forgiveness by ending their lives. This is the nexus point in The Lodge. She was scared to die as a child with a cup full of poisoned juice, but now that the kids have convinced her they are truly dead and trapped in purgatory, Grace welcomes back her old ways, picking up in a similar fashion the moment from her childhood she survived due to lack of faith. She had never experienced any real trace of God, mostly stories and lessons from the cult, but no glimpses of anything spiritual experienced personally. She simply did and believed as she was instructed to. She had no deeply profound religious experience to lay as the foundation of her belief system, only claims in sermons written by a suicide cult leader. He was Grace’s father, so his word carried extra authoritative respect for her than if he had been unrelated. 

Unfortunately for everyone, her reawakened cult persona reemerges full force and Grace, armed, will save them all with murder. She truly believes this is the right thing to do to win God’s favor and escape purgatory in her story-line within The Lodge. Studies show cult members have a tendency to be easily hypnotized, or otherwise entranced, by the appeal of belonging to a tight-knit community that lures people in with a sense of belonging, faux safety, and a purpose greater than our mere humdrum, earthbound existence. Many people are terrified that nothing at all happens after death, and understandably so to those who were manipulated at a young age into believing in Heaven where there is no death, only everlasting peace… or so is the common claim. It could very well be that we just stop existing upon expiring, our shut-down bodies ready to be devoured by insects. Losing a once concrete belief in Christianity can be a mind-shattering experience, causing confusion and a re-examination of one’s life. They tend not to believe in second chances after death and are only able to earn one’s way up to Heaven through true faith on Earth. 

Grace’s God concept in The Lodge is scary. He appears completely vacant from existence, remnants of religious symbolism scattered, a cold and lifeless vibe shows no trace of holy significance, no special powers. The church claims God wants them all to commit mass suicide to earn salvation. The Bible says “thou shall not kill,” so we can assume if Grace is appealing to a spiritual entity, it’s probably not God; possibly nothing at all. Grace has fully entered her father’s mindset and does not rely on the kids accepting their fate willingly; she’ll simply do it herself to make sure nothing keeps them from paradise. Their souls are at risk of an eternal purgatory… isolated, cold, and alone. This time Grace follows through. 

Check out this trailer for “The Lodge!”

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