‘Director Robert Eggers’ follows up his 2015 folk-horror debut The Witch with another eerie period tale.
Set in the 1890s, the film stars Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson as lighthouse keepers battling the elements, isolation, inner demons and possibly some form of mythical supernatural force during a four-week posting on a rocky Maine island.
Atmospherically shot in black-and-white, this is strange, scary, funny and very much a perfectly-formed world unto itself, making for a unique horror experience.’
Now I have to admit that out of the three films I’d signed up to watch at HOME Mcr’s FilmFear season, this was the one I was least looking forward to.
The Witch hadn’t particularly blown my mind if I’m honest, and I felt it a little too style over substance, but with an open mind (and an appreciation for Willem Dafoe), I was ready to embrace The Lighthouse.
For the first 20 minutes or so of the film, the grainy, black and white cinematography dealt a series of bleak, sometimes surreal and definitely claustrophobic scenes and images. So far so the video from The Ring.
But just as I was starting to be lulled into a state of hypnotic, slightly sinister sense of, frankly, slumber, the film took its turn.
Finally talked into sharing a bottle with Dafoe’s ‘Thomas Wake’, Pattinson’s ‘Ephraim Winslow’ celebrates the final night of what has clearly been the most miserable 4 weeks of his life on the island, and amidst a thrashing storm, the evening descends into what can only be described as deranged debauchery (to be fair, this is the tip of the iceberg, if you’ll forgive the tenuous maritime analogy).
What I haven’t told you is that the storm is all Winslow’s fault because he killed a seagull. And this is as poetic as I’m going to get in this revelation because the whys and the wherefores should only be explained watching this brilliantly bleak piece of cinema.
I’ll further add that Winslow’s encounter with a wooden mermaid gives a whole new meaning to ‘Splash’.
And finally if there was ever a 3am type boardroom decision made to remake Steptoe and Son set in the middle of the sea in a thrashing storm – no need, done. This is Steptoe and Son on acid and I mean that in the most complimentary of ways. The fleetingly affectionate but always disturbing and on occasion deeply humorous relationship between Dafoe and Pattinson’s characters is the pearl in the oyster of this film.
Think Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf in a Lighthouse.
Both actors give downright deliciously gritty, ugly, dastardly character performances and there is no room for vanity projects here. Simply brilliant and you’ll even get a few frights for your buck too.
Showing at cinemas Nationwide and at HOME Mcr as part of FilmFear until 3 November 2019.
Languages – English
Duration – 110 mins
- Willem Dafoe
- Robert Pattinson