Two lighthouse keepers named Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe) and Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson) try to maintain their sanity while living on a remote and mysterious New England island in the 1890s.
Every once in a while, a film comes along that just gives you pure chills when watching it. While watching it, you know you are watching something that is going to go down as a favorite movie of yours for the next couple of years, or maybe even forever. Sometimes, a film can be so strange, mysterious, and downright bizarre, but you know whatever it is you just watched, was something that you enjoyed.
Robert Eggers’ 2015 feature film debut The Witch was most certainly one of those movies for me. Going into it, I did not have a clue as to what it was about or who was in it. I had just heard it was an excellent horror feature with a unique approach and chilling effect that leaves the viewer haunted long after the credits roll. Not only was The Witch one of the best horror films released that year, but it is one of the greatest of the decade.
You can probably imagine then how excited I was to watch Egger’s new follow-up The Lighthouse, which had garnered even more praise than his predecessor at various festivals such as Cannes. It was clear the moment the titlecard and the two lead actors appeared that I was in for a treat, and I definitely was, because The Lighthouse not only surpasses The Witch on virtually every level, but it is one of the best films of the entire year so far.
So many times you hear a certain actor is good in a particular movie, but when you get around to watching it finally, you sometimes feel like the hype behind them was a bit overblown. I have felt this way when watching some movies in the past, too. But when it comes to Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe here – believe the hype. These two actors are nothing short of mesmerizing in every single scene that they are in. They sell every scene, and it is not an easy task to act in this movie as so much is asked of them. There are some sequences later on in the picture that a wide variety of actors would not be able to pull off or make it seem convicing, but Pattinson and Dafoe do. They almost make it seem effortless.
Throughout the film, we learn bits and pieces about their characters Thomas Wake and Ephraim Winslow, and their development throughout is extremely interesting. Every time of the men opens up to one another, it was an incredibly suspenseful, sometimes funny, but always intriguing moment. There are two sequences in particular in this movie in which Pattinson and Dafoe go on long rants and the acting in these scenes are utterly brilliant. If the two of them do not get nominated for Academy Awards come awards season, it would be the biggest travesty since Toni Collette not being nominated for her masterful work in Ari Aster’s Hereditary. The other big travesty would be if Florence Pugh gets snubbed for Midsommar. Here’s hoping the Academy finally starts to notice horror as a legitimate genre that has true talent working in it.
Something interesting about The Lighthouse is that the entire film is presented in black and white and is in the 1.19 : 1 aspect ratio. We really do not see movies presented in these formats these days, and it is such a welcomed addition here. To be completely honest, I think if the picture was shot in full color and with the standard aspect ratio, it would not have been as effective.
Speaking of the technical aspects, the cinematography present is some of the best of the entire year. It is shot by Jarin Blaschke, who previously served as director of photography on Egger’s aforementioned The Witch. Every frame of the film is absolutely gorgeous to look at, and everything is framed perfectly. That mixed with Mark Korven’s haunting score, and the smooth, effective editing by Louise Ford make this film dazzling.
Finally, one of my favorite aspects of the film is that it is most definitely going to stir up numerous theories online about what the entire story meant and I am sure people are going to dig extremely deep into everything, because this film is surely scattered with interesting tidbits that are easy to miss on the initial viewing. The ending is one that will stick with me for a long time, much like some of my favorite horror movies of all time.
The Lighthouse is an utterly mesmerizing piece of horror cinema. Its shot gorgeously, expertly acted, and will linger with you long after the credits roll.
Overall Grade: A+
MPAA Rating: R for sexual content, nudity, violence, disturbing images, and some language
Cast: Willem Dafoe, Robert Pattinson, Valeriia Karaman
Directed by: Robert Eggers
Distributed by: A24 (United States), VVS Films (Canada)
Running Time: 110 minutes