‘The Lighthouse’ is beautiful yet upsetting


Willem Dafoe (left) and Robert Pattinson (right) star as Thomas Wake and Ephrain Winslow, two lighthouse keepers stuck on an island for four weeks off the coast of New England, in “The Lighthouse.” Photo by Eric Chakeen (Courtesy of A24)

With its standout performances and unique approach to cinematic horror, “The Lighthouse” is one of the best horror films of the decade.

“The Lighthouse” is the newest film from director Robert Eggers, the mind behind 2016’s “The Witch.” “The Lighthouse” tells the story of Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattison) and Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe), two lighthouse keepers who are sent to an island off the coast of New England to maintain a lighthouse for four weeks. However, while working at the lighthouse, Winslow and Wake must also survive the rugged, harsh conditions of their workplace and maintain their sanity.

There are no bigger patrons of quality horror films, or arthouse films in general, than A24. A24 is an entertainment company that focuses on film distribution and production. With recent productions like “Hereditary,” “The Witch,” “It Comes at Night” and “Midsommar,” no other studio or distributor has consistently produced, distributed and released quality horror films in the last decade to the same extent. “The Lighthouse” further cements A24’s place as a powerhouse in contemporary cinema.

“The Lighthouse” is beautiful —with haunting, unsettling imagery and eerie thematic connotations.

The existential themes of sanity, isolationism and pleasure that reoccur throughout the film makes the narratives of Winslow and Wake chilling.

These motifs carry resonate heavily with the human condition, so to see them cinematically delivered in such haunting fashion was exquisitely gut-wrenching.

This is reflected with the characters of Winslow and Wake, as the audience witnesses their descent into violent insanity. The characters of Winslow and Wake would not have carried such a heavy, vital presence in the film had it not been for the exceptional performances delivered by Pattinson and Dafoe.

I am familiar with Dafoe’s work, so I expected a competent performance from him going into this film. However, I cannot say the same for Pattinson, as he lacks experience in serious roles in film — especially when compared to Dafoe. Pattinson has also not shown in his previous films that he can carry a performance with the intensity a director like Eggers demands for his films.

However, Pattinson was not only able to carry his own in this film, he may have delivered the best performance of his career to date.

The raw energy Pattinson exuded when portraying Winslow made his character captivating, yet repulsive as his grotesque nature and behavior unfolds. The same can be said for Dafoe’s character, Thomas Wake.

What I enjoyed the most about “The Lighthouse” was its technical production. The use of a 1.19:1 aspect ratio paired with black and white cinematography drove home the eerie mood and tone that Eggers was aiming for.

Additionally, the influences of montage (a film movement where unrelated images are juxtaposed with each other to complement a single thematic element), expressionism and film noir aesthetics contributed to the tone of the film.

“The Lighthouse” is an arthouse film. It is not meant for a general audience— especially an impatient audience, as the film is slow-paced. It requires multiple viewings to fully grasp the thematic elements that the film is presenting.

With that said, “The Lighthouse” is a top recommendation of mine because of its thought-provoking themes and stunning visuals.

With “The Witch” and “The Lighthouse” under his belt, Eggers is now two-for-two in delivering horror masterpieces. The man has an eye for historical authenticity and captivating storytelling.

“The Lighthouse” is in my top five films of the year, and I look forward to Eggers’ future works.

Rating: 5/5 stars

Angel Ortega can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @AngelOrtegaNews.