The Lighthouse is a psychological horror film directed and produced by Robert Eggers, who co-wrote the screenplay with his brother Max Eggers. Shot in black-and-white with a 1.19:1 aspect ratio, the film focuses on two lighthouse keepers who start to lose their sanity when a storm strands them on the remote island where they are stationed. According to Eggers, although the final story bears little resemblance to Edgar Allan Poe’s fragment “The Light-House”, the film began as an attempt by his brother Max Eggers to do a contemporary take on the Poe story. When the project stalled, Eggers offered to work with his brother and the project evolved into a period thriller with the Poe elements removed. I could have lived without The Lighthouse as it is a tedious, sad, and horrific movie, in my opinion.
In the late 19th century, Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson) is sent on by boat to serve a contract job as a wickie (lighthouse caretakers) for four weeks on an isolated island off the coast of New England. Ephraim is to work under the supervision of an irritable elderly man named Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe). The two must find a way to keep their sanity when the circumstances are insane. On the first day of the job, Winslow notices a hole in his cot. As he digs into it, he finds a small scrimshaw of a mermaid and stuffs it in his jacket. Ephraim observes Thomas going up to the lighthouse’s lantern room at night and stripping naked. Ephraim begins experiencing visions and dreams of tentacles in the lighthouse, tree stumps floating in the water, and distant images of a mermaid (Valeriia Karamän). They must use chamber buckets to relieve themselves and there’s no means of communication or entertainment but there’s plenty of work to be done. Over the course of his stay, Thomas demands Ephraim take the more taxing jobs—refueling the light, carrying heavy kerosene containers, and disposing of the two men’s chamber pots. As time progresses, Ephraim repeatedly encounters a one-eyed gull. Thomas warns Ephraim that it is bad luck to kill a gull, as he is superstitious that the animals are reincarnated sailors.
The Lighthouse is a disturbing horror story filmed in black and white, which made it more creepy. It’s not my cup of tea, as I don’t like horror stories. However, it seems as though The Lighthouse is considered exceptional as it received 91% Rotton Tomatoes based on 300 reviews, with an average rating of 8.17/10. The site’s critics’ consensus reads, “A gripping story brilliantly filmed and led by a pair of powerhouse performances, The Lighthouse further establishes Robert Eggers as a filmmaker of exceptional talent.” As if Thomas and Ephraim’s circumstances weren’t bad enough, a major storm strands them the very day they were to end their shifts and be picked up by ferry. What is discovered and what happens during the storm is a bitter and horrific ending to a most horrifying movie. I do agree both Dafoe and Pattinson acted their characters brilliantly. As of January 30, 2020, The Lighthouse has grossed $10.9 million in the United States, and $4 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $14.9 million. I’m not sure of the kind of audience The Lighthouse attracts, it just wasn’t for me. If this is your thing, The Lighthouse can be rented on Amazon Prime, Check It Out!
[THE LIGHTHOUSE is Oscar-nominated for Best Cinematography totaling one Oscar nomination]