The Lighthouse directed by Robert Eggers has disturbed me in ways traditional horror movies seldom do and I’ll remember this experience for years to come.
The Lighthouse follows the story of two seamen stranded in a lighthouse on an island due to extreme weather conditions. As time passes, both struggle to keep their sanity in check and forget to hold on to the ideals they set out this journey with.
Every year there’s this one movie that makes such a strong impression on me that even though I’m unsure about how good it is, I can’t stop thinking about it. It was Hereditary last year, Blade Runner 2049 the year before and Kimi no na wa before that. Well, things got very interesting this year with both Parasite and The Lighthouse being those kinds of movies. I intend on reviewing Parasite soon but The Lighthouse I just can’t wait to talk about. There’s just so much to unpack in this film, not just because of what happens in the story but how everything has been crafted.
Robert Eggers says that much like mystery clouding the light in the story, he hasn’t revealed what the source of light was in those seemingly dark shots inside the cabin during the storm. It makes me feel dumb for not realizing that myself because shots like that can’t possibly be that well-lit. The exterior of the lighthouse was built on Nova Scotia and almost the entire interior has been built inside soundstages and warehouses outside of Halifax. And believe it or not, this masterpiece was finished filming in 32 days.
The performances by Defoe and Pattinson range from evenly composed to over the top rage-inducing, sometimes within one scene. And as their characters slowly shift gears over the runtime, the performance reflects a stronger body language and more physical range as compared to when the film begins. The thick accents are harder to understand but are very period-specific and feel like a necessary part of the experience. These are hands down my favorite performances of the year.
Defoe’s and Pattinson’s characters complement each other so well that you forget that they switch positions in their power struggle across the course of the film. The first half has Defoe in control as this rough novice lighthouse keeper who’s making Pattinson’s life miserable by giving him more chores than he can handle. And in the course of the movie, we witness a very gradual switch, that I obviously won’t spoil. There’s also humor in these characters that makes them more relatable and grounded as against their jobs and lives, something we would barely connect to.
The use of the 1.19:1 aspect ratio was one of the smartest choices in this film. Because the movie only has two characters and the audience must also feel trapped, something like a traditional widescreen would’ve either forced the characters to maintain distance to occupy the screen completely or made it obvious how much space was on set if they were actually close. And since the movie places such an emphasis on the characters, the only information you need is their performances. The score and sound effects are profound, so much so that they overwhelm you, be it the sound of the crashing waves, the foghorn or just plain distortion.
This is undoubtedly one of the best I’ve movies seen this year and probably my favorite horror movie of all time. Yes, this isn’t a traditional horror movie and arguably had no jump scares. Yet the movie has disturbed me in ways traditional horror movies seldom do and I’ll remember this experience for years. And honestly, that’s what a horror movie is supposed to do.
Download Press Notes for the movie by A24 here