The Lighthouse (2020)

Directed by Robert Eggers; Written by Robert Eggers and Max Eggers

A dark and twisted tale told to terrify. 

Ever move someplace new and find yourself alien to your surroundings? Feel as if an otherwise passive world turns against you and preys upon you with its indifference? Unable to escape, you withdraw and batten down the hatches, only to find the demons already inside, and now writhing on the rocks of your own fears, you desperately hope for a moment’s respite, to just briefly get above it all to find your bearings, if only for a minute…

Here to live that fearful life is Thomas Howard (Robert Pattinson) debutante lighthouse keeper assigned to tend the light on a small, gullshit-stained rock off the coast of New England. There alongside him is Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe), a man carved from that same craggy rock by the sea’s relentless abuse. His senior colleague claims lighthouse duties for himself, delegating to Howard the dirty work around the island. Keen to get along, and make a fresh start away from his past, he sets to work. But there are no fresh starts, only new ways for your ghosts to torment you, and Howard soon feels there are more than just his own on this forsaken outcropping at the edge of humanity. 

Glorious and terrible to behold, Robert Eggers and cinematographer Jarin Blaschke tell their ruinous tale in stark black and white with and an almost-square frame to box you in. With tight shots and forced perspectives, there’s nowhere for your eye to seek refuge as you’re brought into close contact with Howard’s grisly existence, be it gruesome textures of gulls broken to bits, brimming chamber pots, rotten water, and what’s worse as derangement takes hold. It makes for a long list of indelible shots that will swell forth when you least expect it for days after. 

Dafoe and Pattinson are perfect foils for each other as Dafoe’s mephistophelian eyes and grin jab at Pattinson, who grants Howard his troubled humanity with a hangdog expression of sullen eyes lit from within by a rising terror. Powered by the mad energy of these two performances, and realized with prodigious visual flair, The Lighthouse is a dizzying experience sure to disgust, unsettle, terrorize and not be forgotten. A tall tale for seafarers to tell in hushed tones for fear of reawakening the evil that inspired it.  

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