Directed and written by Robert Eggers, known for his critically acclaimed film The Witch, The Lighthouse is another film adding on to the list of spooky, bizarre unique takes on the horror genre with great results achieved in the end.
Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe star in this 19th century-based eerie flick as Ephraim Winslow and Thomas Wake, respectively, two lighthouse keepers that are stuck working and living together in the lighthouse while in the middle of a storm that essentially leaves them stranded and with no one to help or aid them. The two men work, eat and drink together while also trying to keep their sanity alive as the storm continues to rage over with no other humans in sight to relieve them of their duty.
Set in the 1890’s, Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson) is sent on a contract job to serve as a lighthouse keeper, commonly referred to as a ‘wickie’ in the film, on an isolated coast while under the supervision of an elderly, crankier wickie, Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe). Thomas oversees the commands and orders for taking care of said lighthouse, who doles out the more hard and time-consuming jobs for Ephraim to complete, such as scrubbing or re-painting the lighthouse. The two occasionally butt heads and don’t see eye to eye on things, especially as Thomas forbids Ephraim access to be allowed at the very top and near the source of light. This causes much interest and suspicion for Ephraim and soon after, begins experiencing strange dreams and visions, all while making it his mission to see what lies atop the lighthouse. From here on, things become more bizarre, weird and downright spooky.
Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson are both absolutely phenomenal in this movie and I cannot get over how great these two men worked together on-screen as their chemistry was fantastic. I think I would even go as far as saying this is Pattinson’s best performance yet. Watching him squirm and struggle to accept the weirdness and bizarre nature of his surroundings on the remote island is mesmerising to watch. Even when this film manages to kick out some funny moments (which was a pleasant surprise) with these two characters, they were both able to make something worth a good belly laugh.
The most notable thing about The Lighthouse, however, is the movie is entirely filmed in black and white, with an aspect ratio of 1.19:1. Watching this, I felt like an old 19th century film had been unearthed and rediscovered in this day and age. It’s a beautifully crafted-looking movie with its depiction of the bleak colours of black, white and grey while capturing the feelings of claustrophobia, paranoia and the feeling of being boxed in somewhere very small. This is ironic given the way the film is presented to us; colourless, eerie and filmed in a rather square-ish resolution.
These feelings also mirror the mood and attitude of Pattison’s character Ephraim, who constantly portrays himself as terrified and spooked throughout the entirety of the film. Close-up shots of Dafoe and Pattinson chugging down bottles upon bottles of alcohol, bleak attempts of the two of them keeping each other entertained by singing and dancing or even shots of darkness engulfing the entirety of the scene being played out except for the two lead cast members barely visible by candlelight whilst arguing with one another truly gives the feeling of feeling closed in a place you really do not want to be, especially with someone you don’t really know, or even worse, trust.
I really, really must give big praise to Jarin Blaschke, who was the cinematographer for The Lighthouse. All the above mentioned with the shooting and lack of colour in this film made it truly feel like I was watching a centuries-old horror film that just makes your skin crawl. It’s a real sight to behold and watch.
If it weren’t for the square-like aspect and bleak colours, (or lack of) this movie would not have made as much of a big impact as it did on me, or even make me feel uncomfortable. It’s all in the details and every shot, every close-up, every shadow covering or hiding details hidden to the audience until the last moment is very effective and well-done. Even sound designer Damian Volpe also deserves praise for creating some of the most haunting and chilling sounds that play throughout the entirely of the movie; such as the booming sound of a foghorn, or the sound of crashing waves pounding against the lighthouse amongst the wind and storm brewing in vicious fashion, adding to the horrific nature of this mysterious flick.
Along with an intriguing story about the abuse of male power and command, The Lighthouse makes for a very interesting, gorgeous yet eerie viewing that I do suggest is worth your time.