Dafoe and Pattinson both go mad in Robert Egger’s latest masterwork.
You recall in my “Midsommar” review when I admitted one of my fears? It would be me standing out in a field midday by myself, and hearing a loud scream.
“The Lighthouse,” the next horror entry from Robert Eggers (“The Witch,” has given me another example of that, because we travel to a New England island in the 1890s with “There Will Be Blood” music, a loud horn, a black and white scope, wind blowing, a mermaid shrieking, and a dark sea.
This leads me to my near fear: being in the water at night. Ever since that opening scene from “Jaws,” where the girl goes skinny dipping before getting devoured, I’ve been terrified to go in the water at night or a cloudy day. I never know what’s underneath, and there’s a scene in the movie where Robert Pattinson goes in the ocean, and finds a mermaid. The colorless scope just furthers it.
“The Lighthouse” is a beautifully photographed, intensely creepy, and emotionally charged thriller, which provides qualities from the likes of Stanley Kubrick, Alfred Hitchcock, or Paul Thomas Anderson.
We meet two lighthouse keepers or “wickies” as they were referred to: the Irish supervisor Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe) and the young timber man Ephraim Winslow (Pattinson).
Thomas is the wise old man who says “it’s bad luck to kill a sea bird,” while Ephraim has to do the daily chores, and deal with that particular seagull. It’s like he’s supposed to deal with the old man’s eye from “The Tell Tale Heart.” Despite Thomas’ warnings, he ends up slaughtering it anyway.
Each day, the former picks on the ladder for not being punctual or quick with the hard work. And instead of “yes sir,” the young lad must answer: “aye.”
As the two spend time together on the island, hallucinations and booze begins to affect Ephraim. He has visions of him making love to a beached mermaid (Valeriia Karaman), and, well, let’s just say: it’s like “The Shining” on an island.
I didn’t understand every ounce of dialogue in “The Lighthouse,” but I still admire how writers Robert and Max Eggers keep the connection between the only two characters on a shaky scale. They have work-related issues, hit the bottles, and allow the island madness and their own secrets to consume them. Dafoe and Pattinson are both well-cast as those people, pushing one another to the very limit.
When you stay at one place for a while, sometimes the evil inside can consume you. Again, “The Shining,” but it’s set in the late 19th century with black and white images. For some reason, I always find this sort of thing creepy, and “The Lighthouse” shows that to me very well. Kudos to cinematographer Jarin Blaschke, editor Louise Ford, art director Matt Likely, and production designer Craig Lathrop for matching the ambiance.
Not even a mental hospital could tame this wickedly provocative film.