Dead of Winter – 1987, US, 100m. Director: Arthur Penn. Streaming: Prime, Tubi
The Lodge – 2019, UK/US, 108m. Director: Severin Fiala, Veronika Franz. Streaming: Max
Mary Reilly – 1996, UK/US, 107m. Director: Stephen Frears. Streaming: Tubi
DEAD OF WINTER (1987) Struggling actress Katie McGovern (Mary Steenburgen) believes she’s struck some luck when asked to take over the lead in an unfinished thriller being shot in upstate New York. Given a makeover, Katie takes over the identity of Julie Rose, the actress who left the film, and readies herself to audition for the director via videotape. The production is orchestrated by the mysterious Dr. Lewis (Jan Rubeš), a wheelchair-bound non-practicing psychiatrist who sets Katie up in his country estate. Katie eventually realizes there’s no movie and is being used as a pawn in a blackmail scheme, which resulted in the real Julie Rose’s murder. Katie’s discovery of the plot is threatened with sedation and psychological torture by Dr. Lewis and his assistant (Roddy McDowell), until she turns the tables on her captors. Steenburgen is likable, Rubeš is villainous, and the climax suspenseful. A modest, if imperfect, little chiller. Fun fact: Rubeš played Santa Claus in the family film One Magic Christmas, also starring Steenburgen. B
THE LODGE (2019) An unhappy family experiences unhappy things in this unhappy film from the makers of the equally unhappy Goodnight Mommy. After their mother commits suicide, brother and sister Aiden (Jaeden Martell) and Mia (Lia McHugh) are thrust into a new life with their father (Richard Armitage) and his fiancée, Grace (Riley Keough), a former psychiatric patient who as a child was the sole survivor of a doomsday cult massacre. The four shack up in an isolated lake house over the Christmas holiday, but the family bonding turns sour when Dad is called away to work, leaving Grace alone with Aiden and Mia. Tensions between fragile Grace and the snot-nosed siblings worsen when items around the house begin disappearing—including Grace’s medication—and the power is mysteriously cut off. Is Grace’s traumatic past coming back to haunt her, or are her soon-to-be stepchildren out to drive her back to the asylum? A sense of impending doom lends the movie a genuinely chilly vibe, which is ironically the story’s downfall—much like the snowy landscapes that surround the lodge, the characters are wooden and cold, leaving very little for the viewer to sympathize with. C
MARY REILLY (1996) The renowned Dr. Jekyll (John Malkovich) startles his house staff by informing them that his new assistant, Mr. Hyde, will be using his laboratory at night. The arrival of this mysterious figure intrigues housemaid Mary Reilly (Julia Roberts), whose cordial relationship with Dr. Jekyll is cemented in Jekyll’s understanding that as a child Mary was physically abused by her father who turned monstrous from alcohol. Those who know the Robert Louis Stevenson story will undoubtedly see the metaphors dripping from the Mary Reilly screenplay, which itself is adapted from a novel by Valerie Martin. Mary’s involvement with Jekyll becomes distressed when she’s asked to help conceal the bloody aftermath of Hyde’s activities at a nearby brothel. The romantic gothic overtones saturate a lot of the gruesomeness of the Jekyll/Hyde plot, but Stephen Frears (The Queen) directs much of the film as psychological horror, including a scene where the greedy Mrs. Faraday (Glenn Close) unwisely tries to bamboozle Jekyll/Hyde and ends up donating her head to science. Despite its good cast and lush production values, Mary Reilly struggles to find its core and is reduced to being yet another “doomed romance” period piece, so popular at the time. C+
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