Movie Review- The Lighthouse

In Robert Eggers' sophomore tour de force, Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe push each other to the brink of insanity.

Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson in

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Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson in "The Lighthouse."

Joe Eckstein, Contributor

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The concept of “The Lighthouse” may seem disinteresting on the surface.

Two men on an island together suffering through cabin fever while shot in black and white might not be typical moviegoers pick for a Friday night out.

However, when you throw in Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe as your lead men, have Robert Eggers write and direct the whole thing, and get film company A24 to produce it, you get a psychological horror film for the ages.

In Eggers’ sophomore effort in the feature-film business, he continues his love for period pieces. 2015 saw his debut with “The Witch,” take place during the 1630s in Salem, feeling very much like Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible.” As a writer, Eggers puts heavy emphasis on dialects. “The Witch” featured an Old Yorkshire accent that at times was hard to understand, but it allowed viewers to become truly immersed in the setting of the film.

Fast-forward about 200 years to the time period of “The Lighthouse,” set on an island up in New England. Pattinson’s character in Ephraim Winslow had a Bostonian accent, while Dafoe’s Thomas Wake delivered a nice Old English tone. Once again it was hard at times to fully follow along with the dialogue, but because it felt so authentic, it didn’t act as a detriment to my experience. You also have to realize that the writing is genuine to that of lighthouse keepers set during the late 1800s. Eggers studied different fictional works and primary sources from past keepers to make the film feel as realistic as possible. After a little Googling of what words like “wickie” mean, the conversations between the two make much more sense

The film mainly revolves around the dialogue between Pattinson and Dafoe. With Pattinson’s’ Winslow, we see a very reclusive and introverted young man, who simply is there to do his new job and leave, while Dafoe’s Wake acts as his exact opposite. An older man who loves a good conversation and has been in the field for a long time. When Wake wants to have a celebratory toast with the younger keep, Winslow is against it at first. As the film progresses, Winslow begins to open up more, and the two are able to work well off of one another. Whether they’re drunkenly singing and dancing to an old sea shanty, or getting in a screaming match over one’s cooking, the dynamic between the two is otherworldly.

Along with the superb acting, the film’s cinematography gives off a sense of eeriness throughout. Shot in all black and white, it feels like watching an old horror movie like “Creature from the Black Lagoon.” Come nighttime, we only see the subtle figures of our main characters. Lamps act as the main source of light inside their little house, while the moon and the blast of brightness from the lighthouse itself illuminates the dark setting. Seeing Winslow’s figure in the darkness and then appear fully as the light turns and then disappear back into the shadows made for one of the many beautiful shots throughout. Eggers loves taking advantage of the environment, and seeing the waves crash on the shore colorless gives off a peaceful yet haunting atmosphere.

Much like “Joker,” this film’s subject matter relies heavily on the inner psyche. We don’t see a traditional horror movie take place. Rather than use jump scares, the horror lies from the unknown. Throughout its entirety, you question whether or not the events unfolding are real or not. It adds to the unsettledness. You begin to question what direction the film is going from the get-go. While Winslow starts out as our mysterious figure, we find out that Wake has some secrets of his own. As more time passes, the two begin to suffer from severe cabin fever. As a viewer, you can’t tell what will happen in the next scene. There is no predictability to the film, giving it an added sense of suspense. One moment the two are caressing one another, then in a moment’s notice begin to engage in fisticuffs.

By the end of “The Lighthouse,” both Winslow and Wake have been pushed to their breaking points mentally. They’ve physically destroyed one another after nights of binge drinking and beating one another to near death. And I loved every minute of it. Watching the man versus man conflict combined with elements of the unknown drove chills up my spine. Robert Pattinson has dropped the stigma that has been surrounding him since his days of “Twilight,” and is able to hold his own against a powerhouse name like Willem Dafoe. Both actors make the most of their lines, and one cannot thrive without the other. Combined with the stellar directing and writing from Robert Eggers, “The Lighthouse” is a volatile cocktail in the most surprising fashion. A film that deserves an immediate second watch through to understand it’s brilliance. A film to remind everyone of what true horror is; the unknown.