‘Alright, have it your way. I like your cooking…’
The Witch was a slow burn horror phenomenon. Eschewing a bumper budget to instead rely on solid storytelling, an ominous atmosphere and a talking goat called Black Phillip, The Witch put director Robert Eggers in the spotlight and ensured that whatever he came up with as a follow up would be monitored closely. Surely he couldn’t conjure something up as wild and unhinged as The Witch? He only bloody has you know.
Winslow (Robert Pattinson) is a gruff drifter who has taken on the role of apprentice lighthouse keeper to Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe), a veteran of both land and sea who survives on a diet of grog, lobster and cutting asides. As the two men become stranded together, insanity begins to take hold…
First off, as a meditation on the fragility of masculinity and the masks we all wear to disguise our true selves, The Lighthouse is incredibly effective and suitably philosophical. As a throwback to the dark fables of Ingmar Bergman (filmed in beautiful black and white, no less) it is incendiary and unforgettable. As a visual spectacle it is stunning and spellbindingly unique. But it is as a character study that The Lighthouse really shines. In Winslow and Thomas, we have two of modern cinemas great antiheroes. To have both of them in the same movie feels almost greedy. The two men become intrinsically linked by their dark secrets and deep character flaws until they are almost indistinguishable. This is a deep dive into the human psyche with neither a torch to light the way or a map to take us home. The Lighthouse is a thrilling, visceral experience from start to finish.
It is the performances of Pattinson and Dafoe that allow the bleak setting and the twisted aesthetics to really shine however. Both are hypnotically unhinged, with Pattinson finally proving beyond doubt that he is a genuine talent and Dafoe confirming that… well confirming that he is a bit of a lunatic. The hysterical claustrophobia and forbidden drunken evenings explode into a crescendo of psychedelica and unspeakable hubris by the third act, but in truth, The Lighthouse is insane from start to finish – and all the better for it.
This is not a safe movie. This is not an easy watch. But this is as exciting as cinema gets. Are you saying you don’t like my lobster, boy? Well?!