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Sandy Journal

Dan's Review: "The Lighthouse" a Disturbing Theme with Brilliant Performances

Oct 25, 2019 05:40PM ● By Dan Metcalf

Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson in The Lighthouse - © 2019 A24.

The Lighthouse (A24)

Rated R for sexual content, nudity, violence, disturbing images, and some language.

Starring Willem Dafoe, Robert Pattinson, and Valeriia Karaman.

Written by Robert Eggers and Max Eggers.

Directed by Robert Eggers.



The Lighthouse, a new movie starring Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson has a unique billing. It’s presented as a “psychological horror” movie, which can mean many things to many people. Robert Eggers’ (The Witch) new movie certainly has both elements (horror and psychological drama), but I’m not sure such a genre can take off, since the film so entirely rare.

Dafoe stars as Thomas Wake, a “wickie” (or lighthouse tender) who takes on a new apprentice in Ephraim Winslow (Pattinson), a young drifter with a mysterious past. When the two men arrive on a remote New England island in the late 1890s, they begin what is supposed to be a 4-week shift, maintaining the lighthouse and keeping the foghorn going. The eccentric Wake is full of tales of the sea and superstitions, which he shares nearly constantly with Winslow, who does not care much for it. Wake also establishes his dominance as head caretaker, assigning Winslow all the dirtiest jobs, while keeping the lighthouse duties to himself. As time drags on, Winslow begins to becomes a little punchy, hallucinating mermaids and other disturbing images. The pair’s relationship begins to deteriorate as Winslow’s visions and behavior worsen, a situation that is exacerbated by the increase of alcohol consumption. Things get worse when a major storm rolls in and the crew’s four weeks pass without the arrival of a ship bearing a new crew. With supplies low and more drunkenness, Wake and Winslow face each other’s demons in a deadly confrontation that reveals more disturbing details about their past.

The Lighthouse is a disturbing and visceral cinematic experience that truly lives up to its billing as a “psychological horror” film. While some of the gory and prurient scenes may be hard to watch, Dafoe and Pattinson’s performances are truly mesmerizing, perhaps the best of the year. Dafoe is especially brilliant as the salty seaman with a talent for expressing maritime lore, biblical fear, and quirky poetry. Pattinson steps up as Dafoe’s equal, delivering a performance that is both enigmatic and unique.

With such powerful performances, you might not even notice that only two characters carry the movie for almost two hours without any supporting cast (Valeriia Karaman appears as a mermaid in some the hallucinations, but that’s it). It’s a dark movie (presented in black and white) that holds your attention from start to finish, even if you might not like how things could end up for the main characters. You might also consider that The Lighthouse may not be meant to be a direct narrative, but perhaps a metaphor about facing demons instead of hiding them to the detriment of those around you. Whatever you glean from the movie may be varied, but you will not forget The Lighthouse.


"The Lighthouse" Trailer