What could be more appropriate now than a horror movie about two guys in isolation who drive each other crazy?

We haven’t had a Weekend Review for awhile, so I’m going to take this opportunity to annoy some of the Bureau and delight others by giving another generally positive review to an A24 production, last autumn’s The Lighthouse. After The Witch‘s success with many critics and niche audiences, Robert Eggers co-wrote and directed this strange little film, in which Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson get stuck together on an isolated island and lose their minds.

Cast and Crew

Directed by Robert Eggers
Written by Robert and Max Eggers
Director of photography: Jarin Blaschke
Music: Mark Korven

Robert Pattinson as Howard
Willem Dafoe as Thomas Wake
Valeriia Karaman as Mermaid
Logan Hawkes as Ephraim Winslow
Kyla Nicolle as Woman on the Rocks
Shaun Clarke as Departing Wickie
Pierre Richard as Departing Assistant Wickie

Premise

After the mysterious death and/or disappearance of a his predecessor, a new wickie on an island lighthouse in the 1890s becomes concerned about his own sanity, and the mental stability of the chief lighthouse keeper. Both men, of course, harbor secrets.

Or, if you prefer, just reread the introduction at the top. That works, too.

High Points

I’ve addressed the look and style of the film under production and effects. Beyond the visual artistry, we have the acting. Even when the characters are so far out of their skulls you do not know whether to be horrified or laugh (I did both), they remain specific, disturbed men in an era now beyond our reach.

And yes, certain clichés related to Dafoe’s lighthouse keeper are addressed within the movie itself.

Low Point

I enjoy immersive drama, films that require you to experience them, rather than just sit back and enjoy (I like those films as well). Even I, however, will acknowledge that the first half of this film would not have suffered from a shorter running time.

I’m still not certain how to take a certain tumble down the stairs.

The Scores:

Originality: 3/6 The film takes its cue from a number of sources, including an unfinished story by Edgar Allan Poe and the Smalls Lighthouse Incident (1801), which directly inspired the 2016 British film, The Lighthouse. The film also draws on some long-established marine lore and literary conventions. The Eggers Brothers, without question, take the material in their own deranged directions, but it is fair to say this is not an entirely original work.

It is, however, unlike anything else you’ll see on screen this year.

Effects: 6/6 In addition to the undetectable effects used to create the storm and other matters, we also have Wake’s dreams and delusions involving Lovecrafted mermaids and other phantoms dragged up from fathoms deep.

Acting: 6/6 See “High Points.”

Production: 6/6 I have yet to see a film distributed by A24 that doesn’t score high in production values, even if they tend towards stylization. I can understand people not liking their films, but production and (usually) acting are unassailable. Eggers shot The Lighthouse in 1.19:1 on 35 mm black and white film and cameras equipped with vintage lenses from the 1930s. Yeah, it’s that kind of film, but the results suggest nineteenth century photography while evoking the sense of otherworldly forces, just out of reach of our perception.

We have, without question, the best-filmed island and lighthouse in cinematic history.

Story: 4/6

Emotional Response: 5/6 The Lighthouse will definitely leave you uncomfortable.

Overall: 5/6 As in The Witch, the script immerses itself in the language and beliefs of the characters and their era. Do you want a close-up view of two men who are a stew of psychological issues and sexual repression, men living before we had a modern understanding of such matters? Watch The Lighthouse. Sometimes the approach works well. Other times it left me cold. As with the Witch, responses will vary a great deal.

In total, The Lighthouse receives 35/42

Note

The Eggers shelved their plans to do a remake of Nosferatu, and are currently at work on a viking epic. I cannot imagine what they will do with that genre, but I’m certain it will resemble no previous viking epic.