Veronika Franz & Severin Fiala: Best Horror Directors of the Decade?

After much deliberation, and narrowing down of a couple contenders, I’ll come out and say it: Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala just might be the best horror directors of the decade (so far).

The Australian aunt and nephew duo has written and directed two feature-length horror films. In 2014, they debuted with German thriller Goodnight Mommy, and just last year premiered their second horror film The Lodge at Sundance. If you’re not familiar with their work, you should be.

The Lodge by Veronika Franz & Severin Fiala is a masterclass in tense atmosphere.
The Lodge is a masterclass in tense atmosphere. (Image Credits: FilmNation Entertainment)

Perfecting The Atmosphere

I’m a sucker for great atmospheric horror. Goodnight Mommy presents its mysterious atmosphere well, but The Lodge really ups the ante.

Stranded in their lodge in the middle of a snowstorm, two kids must survive not only being stuck with the stepmom they’re suspicious of, but alone when strange things start happening.

For some reason, both of Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala’s feature films deal with kids that are, at any given time, creepy, evil, or in danger. And it’s always unsettling to watch.

Obviously, the setting of The Lodge is reminiscent of classic horror films such as The Shining, but its brilliant atmosphere makes for a viewing so tense that it’s unlike anything you’ve seen before.

Both of their films excel in creating unnerving experiences for the viewer that are hard to forget. A good atmospheric film combines music, setting, cinematography, and editing. And both Goodnight Mommy and The Lodge excel in the combination of all these elements.

Goodnight Mommy by Veronika Franz & Severin Fiala utilizes the visual film medium to its fullest.
Goodnight Mommy utilizes the visual film medium to its fullest. (Image credits: Ulrich Seidl Film Produktion GmbH)

Genius Cinematography In Both Films

One of the elements I mentioned was cinematography. With film being a visual medium, a good horror movie will use that to its advantage. Memorable, terrifying imagery goes a long way in setting the right tone, and Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala know this.

In fact, they take it one step further. I’d argue that they are masters of the “show don’t tell” notion.

Goodnight Mommy features minimal dialogue. It focuses on two kids whose mother comes back from surgery with her face bandaged, and they quickly become suspicious if it’s actually their mother at all. For such an intimate plot, it excels in its gripping visuals. The viewer learns information as the kids do, despite having hardly any dialogue. The cinematography and acting really carry this film, culminating in an intense and disturbing climax.

Goodnight Mommy by Veronika Franz & Severin Fiala subverts expectations.
Goodnight Mommy subverts expectations. (Image credits: Ulrich Seidl Film Produktion GmbH)

Veronika Franz & Severin Fiala: Epic Screenplay Duo

It’s hard to write successful “show don’t tell” scripts. Especially as their debut feature film, it’s honestly an impressive feat.

The scripts of both Goodnight Mommy and The Lodge are great in their minimalist style. Focusing more on character development and set and sound design rather than dialogue itself, these films are written so well.

Even though some of their plot twists may be predictable for obsessed horror fanatics, they’re done so effectively that it’s quickly forgivable. In The Lodge, for example, I saw the ending coming. But it was so brilliantly acted and more tense than I expected. And for that, I give Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala much praise.

They continued, in both films, to subvert expectations and create films that were not only horrifying, but truly works of art. And that’s why I consider them the best horror directors of the decade.

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