The credits roll and the lights don’t completely come up. No one in the cinema moves. On an isolated island in the middle of nowhere, Winslow (Robert Pattinson) serves as a wickie to an old, irascible keeper, Wake (Willem Dafoe). Stranded after a catastrophic storm, rations become scarce and the men spiral into alcoholism, suspicion and madness. The Lighthouse is a hypnotic film, championing director Robert Egger’s surreal filmmaking and reminding audiences of the potent horror of human psychology.

Winslow (Pattinson) and Wake (Dafoe) in the first scene of The Lighthouse, immediately letting audiences know they’re in for an eery two hours.

The Lighthouse, is a spiritual sequel to Egger’s cult classic The Witch. Exploring isolation and madness (and referencing The Shining more than once), The Lighthouse is a quietly intense reflection on masculinity, the human condition and the breakdown of a psyche without hope of being saved. Like The Witch, the film contains unreliable antagonists. We swiftly make enemies of characters, the lighthouse, winds, waves and the animals, even considering how our own perceptions could be incorrect.

How I learned to stop worrying and love the waves

Dafoe and Pattinson in The Lighthouse with the titular structure.

Stuck in the middle of the ocean with no concept of time or place is consuming from the first scene. Are we with Pattinson and Dafoe for days? Weeks? Months? There is no scene that runs too long, none that is excessive or unneeded. Like manning the titular lighthouse, the filmmakers take care to fuel the fires without burning down the whole damn place. Each component – direction, cinematography, sound design, acting (shout out to R. Patts whom I grossly underestimated) – is necessary and curated.

Can you survive the lighthouse?

If you aren’t a fan of cycling into madness without a clue, The Lighthouse is not for you. However, if the thought of being utterly baffled is exciting, then this is a home run. The Lighthouse will inspire some of the most interesting analyses of 2019 and I encourage viewers to think sincerely about what this madness means. Four and a half out of five Cthulhus.

4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)
About the Author

I am a writer located in Melbourne, Australia that works as a freelance writer, artist, curator, historian and podcaster. I am interested in philosophy, sexuality, art history, curating and feminism. I write personal essays, academic reviews and studies as well as poetry and short fiction. My writing practice relies on passion, humour and vulnerability. I am an absolute horror movie nut. I believe it spawns from being an extremely scared child who could barely be around Halloween decorations let alone watch The Exorcist. But for some reasons I would still read the Wikipedia plots of these films as well as staring at the horror section at our local Blockbuster as if it could come alive and attack me as a singular genre. When I eventually watched Paranormal Activity at fifteen (my first watched horror movie), I realised that nothing in cinema could match my manifested childhood fear and instantly fell in love with the genre. My adult fears are far more abstract now like failure and dying alone. My favourite horror film is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (which I've written entire academic essays on for my art history degree), with close runners up being The Exorcist, The Shining, Taxidermia and Train to Busan. I am also a true crime and conspiracy aficionado and the resident expert on all things spooky for my friends and family.

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