[Review] The Lighthouse (2019)
From Robert Eggers, the visionary filmmaker behind modern horror masterpiece The Witch comes this hypnotic and hallucinatory tale of two lighthouse keepers who try to maintain their sanity while living on a remote and mysterious New England island in the 1890s.
I honestly think The Lighthouse was my most anticipated movie for this year. With all the rave the critic’s made after the film made its first appearance at Cannes earlier in May, and of the much-respected cast members, who could blame me? Not only that but discovering that the still-new director, Robert Eggers, was in charge of the entire project! I mean, Eggers’ first feature film, The Witch, left me fully impressed with its dark and bleak horror, and its bone-chilling atmosphere from beginning to end. It was one of the most finely-crafted horror movies I had seen in a long time. A truly frightening story about a Puritan family descending into madness in 17th century America.
Being how successful The Witch was, one would have to wonder if Eggers could follow up such a great debut. But four years later, he did just that, he returned with another unique horror film, only this time, done completely different. As much as I loved his debut, The Lighthouse seriously blows it out of the water. To me, this is a true masterpiece, an art like nothing you’ve seen before. Eggers sets this film in the Northeastern United States, on a tiny remote island off the coast of Maine in the 1890s. The Lighthouse is as simple as it is complex, and very much just as psychological as it is horrifying. I was once again mesmerized by this filmmaker’s storytelling.
The story takes place solely on a small and abandoned island with an eerie looking lighthouse standing right in the middle of it. As the movie opens, we see two men, who we assume is in charge of the lighthouse and its upkeep, standing at the front of a boat with angry looks on their faces. The boat is crashing through the harsh, rough water, surrounded by thick fog, on its way to the island with the lighthouse. After the two men arrive at the lighthouse they settle in, then over dinner, they make a toast – “To four weeks!”, Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe) yells out, as four weeks are the scheduled length of their stay on the island. Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson) politely pours his drink out and tells Tom that the manual says they aren’t allowed to drink. Thomas tells him that it’s bad luck to not finish a toast, so Ephraim turns and gets a glass of water, you can tell by his expression that it tastes really bad. This is when we first get a taste of the tension that’s about to explode.
There seems to be a dark mystery about the lighthouse itself, and what’s going on with the light upstairs. For some odd reason, Ephraim is not allowed to go upstairs where the light is. He thinks that he sees things in the room with the light while Thomas is up there and he sees brief flashes of creepy images in the shadows on the walls. Ephraim also starts to seeing other weird things, like floating trees in the water, and horrifying visions of a mermaid, only to wake and find himself in bed, leaving him to assume they were only dreams. The bigger mystery, however, is the bizarre relationship between these two characters that begin to form. Between bouts of happy binge drinking during the dark depressing days, to the constant cursing and fighting between them over dinner, to them making up immediately afterward, you get this dreadful feeling that one of them is about to snap.
There’s also some sort of constant humming, like some sort of machine coming from the lighthouse that is a constant and annoying sound. Right from the start I almost felt like I was losing my mind the more I heard it. The characters loathe the sound and I’m pretty sure it’s not helping their sanity. I need to see this again just to know if that sound is truly there all the time, or just when things are normal. I believe, but not certain that it stops when something not real is going on. To me, this was not your typical horror movie. It’s foreboding and creates an uneasy feeling about the unknown. I believe true horror is psychological, and not just scaring you with loud noises and jump scares. And believe me, this film is as psychologically bent as they come. You do not want to miss out on seeing this one!
The Lighthouse was a visually striking film. It reminded me so much of how the old-time movies were shot, including the fact that the film was done completely in black and white with a square box format. The contrast between the white, black and grey really added to the stark and foreboding feel of the whole thing. Stuff shadows love to play in. The acting between the two characters was over the top brilliant. I’m not surprised at Dafoe’s acting one bit, as he is fantastic in every single thing he does. But Pattinson? Holy shit does he ever show us just how much he has matured and improved as an actor since the Twilight Saga days! He was simply incredible in this role.
The film’s cinematography, editing, and photography were nothing but yummy eye-candy. The musical score could not have been any better, as it was actually a huge reason the film kept me on the edge. I also have to give a big high-five to that cameraman, he no doubt knew exactly what he was doing in every shot, it’s just unbelievable how this alone brought so much creepiness into the film. I believe that The Lighthouse will secure a great many nominations in this upcoming awards season. Mark my word!
Title: The Lighthouse
Release Date: October 18, 2019
Runtime: 1 hour, 49 minutes
Genre: Horror, Fantasy, Drama
Starring: Willem Dafoe, Robert Pattinson, Valeriia Karaman
MPAA Rated: R
Director(s): Robert Eggers
Reviewed by: Grim Magazine
Our Rating: 4.4 /5
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