Little Bone Lodge from director Matthias Hoene and writer/actor Neil Linpow is a home invasion flick that attempts to twist our expectations of the genre. After a brief prologue featuring stormy Scottish scenery and a voiceover describing the nature of motherhood, the film dives right into the action. After preparing a birthday cake and dinner with her daughter and wheelchair-bound husband, Mama (Joely Richardson) is interrupted by banging at the front door. From here, the intensity is ramped up and we’re in for a (long) ride.

This is a film with repeated twists and reveals, and because so much is being kept from the audience for a good chunk of time, it’s difficult to get to grips with various character behaviours. Why does Mama seem so at ease when two strange men appear outside her house (one of them impaled with a metal rod)? Why are the men speaking to one another so intensely? Just as it all starts to feel a little like an ITV crime drama, secrets begin to reveal themselves and the plot takes various turns – some of them more predictable than others.

Little Bone Lodge is a shapeshifter, morphing into new genres every twenty minutes or so: home invasion, body horror, crime thriller, psychological character study. The twists are welcome but eventually the pace, oddly, slows and begins to seriously lag in the third act. Too many characters take too long to do too many things and the resolution after the final climactic reveal takes too long to arrive. This could have been better served as a tighter chamber piece without multiple car trips to and from crashed cars and buried bodies.

The film’s performances are a saving grace, brimming with intensity, particularly from Linpow and Harry Cadby as Matty. Some shock moments and visual frights in the final act are also effective at yanking us back in for some late grimaces and jumps. By the time we get there, though, there’s a feeling that the film would have been more enjoyable had it been trimmed by twenty-five minutes.

Screened as part of Glasgow FrightFest 2023