Main cast: Robert Pattinson (Ephraim Winslow), Willem Dafoe (Thomas Wake), and Valeriia Karaman (The Mermaid)
Director: Robert Eggers
Well, The Lighthouse is certainly designed to win awards in various design and cinematography categories, as it is a lovingly shot black and white film. Robert Eggers isn’t rocking the boat that gave him much acclaim in The Witch, and this one is another intimate, tense horror film.
Ephraim Winslow arrives to spend four weeks helping wickie Thomas Wake maintain a lighthouse in an island off New England. Winslow tries to be genial and accommodating, but Wake is an abrasive, demanding taskmaster who frequently makes him the brunt of his pranks and insults. Moreover, Winslow starts seeing that older man climbing the stairs at night to dance around naked at the lantern room – a place Wake has forbidden Winslow to approach. What is up there? Winslow also begins dreaming of and seeing strange things, from mermaids to severed heads. Is he losing his mind, or is there something supernatural about the place that is driving him or Wake or possibly both of them slowly insane?
Initially, I thought there would be some lovely Lovecraftian horror elements here, as we have dreams of tentacles and mermaids in an isolated place by the sea – surely a lovely place for Dagon and Cthulhu to throw a party – but the whole thing ends up being just a long showcase of Willem Dafoe being Willem Dafoe – the critically acclaimed version of Nicolas Cage – and Robert Pattinson continuously proving that there is more to him beyond Edward Cullen.
All this is good and nice, and there is certainly enough scenery chewing to go with the atmosphere, but the movie really stumbles when it tries way too hard to be opaque and arty-farty. I can only suppose that this story is a modern day horror take on the legend of Prometheus, what with the final scene and the whole obsession with the light source in the lantern room. However, nothing is really answered, there is no pay-off, the characters never go anywhere, and I can only wonder at the end of the day what I am supposed to take away from the whole thing.
The Lighthouse, therefore, is a movie made for critics who would no doubt be awed by the grainy shots and other technical aspects of the movie when they are not gushing about the actors. Horror movies are so icky, after all, and this one must be amazing because it tries so hard to arty-farty! People who actually pay to watch horror films, however, may want to adjust their expectations before sitting down to give this one the eyeball. This isn’t a horror flick as much as it is just the people behind the movie doing their best to win awards.