Writer-director Robert Eggers follows up his 2014 New England folktale horror The Witch…
…with a black and white epic of machismo madness and hilarity featuring two sledgehammer performances from Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson.
When Ephraim Winslow (Pattinson) takes up his role of ‘wickie’ alongside haggard sea dog Thomas Wakes (Dafoe) to fulfil their posts at a remote lighthouse, the pair must battle to keep their sanity as a storm leaves them stranded on a mysterious island off the coast of New England at the turn of the century.
If they aren’t clashing over Thomas’ constant farting or terrible cooking, then they’re clashing over Ephraim disturbing the sea birds (they contain the souls of dead sailors, apparently) and his poor floor mopping skills.
Despite the ongoing horror of the pair slowly losing their minds, The Lighthouse strikes an odd yet perfect balance between horror and comedy. You will laugh, but you will also be left disturbed.
Egger’s attention to detail is second to none. Like The Witch, he nails the period dialogue, and a huge credit must go to the costume and production design too, because all of this together creates a rusty, musty black and white world where you feel there’s no escape until the shocking and memorable final shot.
The almost square-framed ratio of the film gives it a constrained, claustrophobic feel, reflecting the conditions of the lighthouse, and Dafoe and Pattinson’s performances practically explode on screen, leaving little room for you to consider the film’s mythological undertones until you’ve left the theatre.
Which begs the question: what is Thomas Wake hiding from Winslow at the top of the lighthouse?
If there’s one thing they clash on, it’s who should ‘tend to the light’, and Wake always wins. Like an old married couple, it’s the topic of argument they constantly return to when Wake’s lobster isn’t quite up to scratch or Winslow’s floor scrubbing just isn’t good enough. But Winslow has secrets of his own, and soon enough he ‘spills his beans’, much to his regret.
The Lighthouse is, without a doubt, one of the most original and genuinely disturbing horror films in recent years. When one of your friends moans that there just ‘aren’t any good horror films’ any more because they won’t move on from The Shining, SHOW THEM THIS.
In fact, take them to see it at Cultureplex’s boutique cinema screen on 28 Feb, where you can enjoy something a bit more satisfying than Wake and Winslow’s homemade ‘hooch’ or boiled potatoes.
, and be sure to check out .
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