A group of friends travel to a secluded lake house in order to mourn the death of their friend. As their weekend away progresses, each share a fictional story ranging from creepy to goofy. But they will soon find themselves in a scary story of their own. Written and Directed by Abigail Blackmore, Tales from the Lodge has a lot of unique anthology stories within, however the ending is a gross exploitation that simply is inexcusable in this time.
[spoilers warned later in the review]
When their close pal Jonesy dies by suicide, five friends head out to his lakeside lodge to scatter ashes and pay their respects. Paul (Dustin Demri-Burns) throws a wrench in the weekend by allowing his new girlfriend to tag along. The rest are a bit unnerved by this, as it should be a deeply close, personal moment for them and not a time to bring around a new fling.
As they settle in and reconnect, they all begin to tell short tales one-by-one. Stories of masked killers, horny ghost possessions, and a zombie apocalypse, among a few others. While they try to have a good time, despite the sadness and tension looming over them, they begin to discover they might be at the center of a real life horror.
While anthology series may be a bit played out, Tales from the Lodge utilizes it in a different way. The film also stars Mackenzie Crook, Laura Fraser, Sophie Thompson and Johnny Vegas, all of which (including Demri-Burns) directed their own characters tales. It’s a unique premise that really allowed each short to shine in its own way.
The tales ranged from truly creepy, to hokey, to seriously funny, and all five were a ton of fun – though the film still focuses on the main story of dealing with the death of a close friend. While the subject matter is very heavy, the tone of the film stays the same throughout, with a sort of dark comedic veil over it. The first two parts of the film are fantastic examples of effective shorts. It is truly a shame that this film didn’t end when the tales were finished being told.
THE BAD (spoiler warning)
Throughout, we are teased that something may be amiss with Paul’s new girlfriend Miki (Kelly Wenham). It’s pretty in-your-face, so it really isn’t a shock when the twist comes around. Which is fine given the films overall wacky nature, but what transpires as the “twist” is just downright offensive.
You see, Miki isn’t just some random girl… she is Jonesy. Sick of secretly crushing on his dear friend Paul, and feeling dismissed by his other friends, Jonesy faked his death. His plan becomes to transition into a female, make Paul fall in love, and then exact his revenge. There is no clarification that Jonesy indeed felt female, just that he wanted to hide his true identity.
This is such a dangerous message to send that trans people are only out to trick you. That transitioning is a means to fool everyone, rather than an extremely personal journey to one’s true self. A Transrespect report gathered 369 “reported murders of trans and gender-diverse people between 1 October 2017 and 30 September 2018” around the world. When trans people live in fear of attack over being doxxed, it’s extremely harmful to continue pushing this narrative of “trans-trickery”.
I want to offer support to female filmmakers and I don’t wish to shame Blackmore for her plot, I just hope that she is simply not educated on trans issues; and that this can be a learning opportunity for her and others. At the least, I would love for this film to be recut, to leave out the hurtful “twist”, as it is a fun movie throughout. But I simply don’t feel right promoting it with such a travesty left in it.
My message to filmmakers who plan to make movies based around communities they are not part of, is to make sure you are including someone who is, in the process. I could imagine if Blackmore had spoken with a trans person or group, she could have been made aware of the harmful message her film carries. It’s 2019, and narratives like this are simply not acceptable.