Wednesday, October 23, 2019

The Lighthouse - Review

When Robert Eggers unleashed The VVitch on the world in 2015, it marked the introduction of a fresh, weird, and historically accurate voice to horror. Where that film found its terror in the historical implications of a witch in the 1600s New England setting, The Lighthouse focuses in on fear of isolation and the psychosis of superstitious men on a rock in the middle of the sea. And boy, does it get bizarre in all the best ways.

Two lighthouse keepers (Robert Pattinson & Willem Dafoe) try to maintain their sanity while living on a remote and mysterious New England island in the 1890s.

Moody, atmospheric period pieces seems to be Robert Eggers’ niche, a subsection of horror where he can play around with the twisted and deranged fears and superstitions of those who came before. With The Lighthouse, Eggers doubles down on the eerie ambience and unimaginable dread of the men who care for the titular lighthouse. It’s another lesson in slow burn terror, a film that doesn’t provide audiences with cheap jumps or false scares, but trusts them to get on board on watch these men lose their minds.

This is all aided by a pair of full-hearted, committed performances from Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe. The two actors are undoubtedly talented and are responsible for every line of dialogue, strange colloquialisms, regional dialects and all. Pattinson’s Winslow is the new man to the island, sent out on a 4-week job to assist in care taking and odd jobs during the day, and deal with Dafoe’s Thomas as much as he can.

On the other side, Dafoe is brilliant. Speaking in poems and sayings that are as hard to comprehend let alone understand, Dafoe never slips from the aura of mystery and slight deceit that hovers above the old light keeper. Thomas guards the light with an intensity that leaves Winslow uncertain of his intentions, like over protective addict who doesn’t want to let someone else experience his greatest pleasure. Dafoe commits to all of this, and the film is better for it.

The Lighthouse is remarkable in the way that it plays with the audiences expectations. On numerous occasions, the film can have you believing one thing, and completely flip it around with one line of dialogue that casts a shroud of doubt over events from start to finish. These two men, while vastly different in appearance and experience, are ultimately the same when stripped down and forced to survive, or at least attempt to survive. Throw in a massive storm, a dwindling food supply, and an abundance of alcohol and the results are a crazed, ridiculous, and totally enthralling portrait of a descent into madness.

The Lighthouse inevitably will not be for everyone, and that’s perfectly okay, for the film and likely the filmmakers. But it’s hard to imagine that if someone were to give a chance, that it wouldn’t get its rusty hooks into you in some capacity. Willem Dafoe is mesmerizing, a character that is somewhat grotesque but impossible to take your eyes off of. Pattinson is just as good, he just doesn’t get to chew dialogue and spit it out like Dafoe, and it kind of places him in the backseat. As The Lighthouse expands and reaches more audiences, my advice would be to grab a drink, maybe a can of beans, and give it a chance. If nothing else, it’ll be an experience you won’t soon forget.

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