“The Lighthouse” stars Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson. Released on October 18, 2019, the film is about two lighthouse keepers who become stranded on a remote island.
The film is directed by Robert Eggers, who also directed “The Witch”. Halloween is already over, but that doesn’t mean the scares are gone as well. That’s right, after a couple of weeks of waiting, I was finally able to see why everyone is so terrified by a film that involves two men hanging out in a lighthouse. I was hoping to see it earlier so that I can count it as this year's Halloween movie review, but because of my work schedule and the other movies I wanted to check out, I had to wait until it appears at my favorite cinema. While I didn’t love Eggers’ last film, "The Witch", as much as the critics, I appreciated his filmmaking skills as well as his ability to get underneath my skin. This was my personal reason as to why I wanted to check his latest film out, to see if he can impress me again with his style of horror storytelling. Was he able to accomplish that task?
The story follows Ephraim Winslow (Pattinson), a young man who is sent to an isolated island to work for an elderly lighthouse keeper named Thomas Wake (Dafoe) for a few weeks. As the weeks progress and the storm rages through the island, Winslow began to experience some strange visions that made him question what is reality and what is fake. And by visions, I mean stuff that will make him go “coo-coo”. This is one of the few films that have a really small cast in a small amount of settings. So it’s pretty much like you’re stuck in the lighthouse with the Green Goblin and Edward Cullen. It is also a slow-burning horror film that relies on psychological elements and cabin fever as the main scare tactics rather than cheap jump scares and horror cliches, something that will make a lot of modern horror fans disregard the film in a matter of seconds. For people who do appreciate this type of horror film, however, it is a gripping decent into pure lunacy that gets more and more unnerving as it progresses. In other words, this movie is messed up for all of the right reasons. If you’ve seen the other films that deal with elements like this, you would already figure out how “The Lighthouse” is going to end, but the journey of getting to that point is so enticing and eye-opening that you won’t even care about its familiarity. Everything about this film had me hooked since scene one, especially the technical aspects. The film was shot in black-and-white and in 35mm film to capture the same cinematic look as the other black-and-white films from the early 1900s. To me, it’s an interesting choice that paid off extremely well. Rather than using it as a gimmick, Eggers used the cinematography to capture each and every scene with stunning detail and an irresistible sense of dread and beauty. Plus, I thought it felt more fitting since the film takes place in the late 19th century. In terms of the screenplay, the production design, and the direction, I can definitely see that Eggers has done his homework. You got the ethics of working in the lighthouse, the dialogue, and the sailors’ superstitions. These three principles helped make the situation both real and creepy as heck. The two main actors are also the main elements that made the film work for me. If there was a contest to see which actor can act better than the other, it would end in a draw. I’m not joking, Dafoe and Pattinson were both fantastic in their roles, especially Pattinson. This guy has come a long way since his “Twilight” days, and based on his performance alone, it doesn’t look like he’ll be slowing down anytime soon. The film also has a musical score by Mark Korven that greatly enhanced its haunting atmosphere, similar to how the score from “Joker” affected that film’s authentic atmosphere. If you’re wondering why I’m comparing it to a film that’s based on Batman’s arch enemy, it’s because they both portray people going mad in the most unpleasant way possible.
Overall, “The Lighthouse” is psychological horror at its finest, further proving that the best kinds of scary movies are the ones that mess with the characters’ heads as well as the audience’s. Ranging from the superb performances from Dafoe and Pattinson to its engaging and disturbing storytelling, the film offered an uneasy, yet satisfying, experience that will leave horror art fans shaken after the credits roll. Out of all of the horror films I’ve seen that affected me with this type of structure, this one definitely affected me the most. It really made my nerves shiver as the film reached its end, showcasing the fact that Robert Eggers has once again accomplished his task. I can understand the fact that it’s not going to impress people who are into the cheap horror films of today, but I think it’ll do wonders for people who wanted a more realistic horror experience. If you’re someone who respects the artistic style of horror filmmaking, “The Lighthouse” is right up your alley.