HUNTERS LODGE (2016)
Starring Tim Ahern, Janis Ahern and Nicola Wright
Written & Directed by Martyn Tott
“A war veteran discovers treachery, murder and ghosts from his past at a remote island lodge funeral. Psycho thriller”.
It’s always the most exciting when reviewing a film you have absolutely no prior knowledge of. When something slips under the radar it can sometimes be a sign of the films quality, or lack thereof. But every once in awhile, you find a gem.
Hunters Lodge isn’t quite a gem, but it was definitely an enjoyable experience. A no budget psychological thriller with a combined cast and crew of EIGHT (!!!), with filmmaker Martyn Tott multi-tasking as writer, director, producer, cinematographer and editor, Hunters Lodge is a labour of love for all involved and that love is quite infectious.
Set almost completely in the titular location, Hunters Lodge tells the story of Harry (Tim Ahern), a war veteran who, despite being haunted by his violent history, is a genuinely nice guy. He travels to the lodge for his old friend Peter’s funeral, and is greeted by Peter’s nephew Eddy (Matt Oliver), his wife Sue (Nicola Wright), Eddy’s cousin Penny (Kim Driver) and caretaker Jackie (Janis Ahern). The longer Harry stays at the lodge, the clearer it becomes to him that something sinister is going on…
Hunters Lodge plays like an Agatha Christie stageplay crossed with an old school ghost story like The Changeling, with a slightly Gothic atmosphere and constant talk of inheritance and family ties. It’s melodramatic but I suppose that goes with the territory. Visually, the piece is quite polished, with layered lighting and a lovely location. Unfortunately the editing and sound design lets it down slightly. Dialogue is crisp and clear but the musical interludes are sometimes repetitive and ill-fitting, and attempts to jazz up the style in the edit misfire. In the first half of the movie, that is…However, the story is always coherent, which makes a change for a no-budget film. I must mention a sequence halfway through the film too. A nightmarish scene set in Harry’s room, it does absolute wonders with sound, lighting and framing, and really stands apart from everything else. I have to hand it to Tott for single handedly creating this section of the film, it’s very inspired. Just shows what can be achieved with no money and lots of imagination.
As a matter of fact, one thing that Hunters Lodge has to its advantage that similar films don’t, is it’s cast. Veteran character actors Tim and Janis Ahern have incredible charisma and likability and it’s clear these characters were written with them in mind as they are perfect and disappear into the roles. Matt Oliver and Nicola Wright are also engagingly mysterious as the Brits, offering plenty of subtext to their characters. In terms of acting and dialogue, the film works wonders.
Occasionally sluggish in pace and hampered by a pretty predictable story, Hunters Lodge nonetheless deserves your attention for it’s fantastic performances and some very creative filmmaking. For a no budget film, Tott has still managed to make something cinematic. It really makes you wonder what he and his cast could do with a bit of money and extra crew. Check it out.