The Lighthouse (Review) – How long have we been on this rock?

Spoiler Free

Quick Read Review

The sea batters an isolated rock, while the gulls circle looking for food. The beaming torch of a rugged lighthouse, keeping Canadian sailers safe while those trapped in its thick walls descend into insanity. New boy Ephram Winslow (Robert Pattinson) joining old sea dog Thomas Wake (William Defoe) as assistant ‘wickie’. Both men a mystery to each other their fates tied to the seclusion of the rocky outpost. Folklore, light and darkness creating a journey into the most obscure reaches of the human mind.

Director Roger Eggers follows his 2015 horror masterpiece The Witch with a Maritime nightmare of epic proportions. Claustrophobically shot in 1.19 : 1 aspect ratio using black and white, creating a film that feels as old as the lighthouse at its centre. A forbodding nightmare of shadows that seeps into your subconscious and eats away at your sense of reality.

The Lighthouse is a masterclass in atmospheric horror, that plays homage to the early German horror of Nosferatu and The Cabinet of Dr. Calligari. Mixed with the skill of Hitchcock in understanding psychological terror. Using its landscape and sublime central performances to build a sense of tension. In a beautifully structured play that delves into the very corners of reality and folklore. Patterson and Defoe butting heads with deliciously dark dialogue. The divine script by Robert and Max Eggers, feeling like a long lost Herman Mellville novel. Both men finding support, hatred and love in the presence of each other. Their inner most secrets unable to find peace as the sea rolls in and wind howls around the cottage that has become a prison. Old sea stories and folklore mixing with the grinding reality of daily life, as the men unravel in a sea of booze and haze of tobacco.

The Lighthouse is a mesmerising theatrical experience. One that shines through a sea of unremarkable horror, guiding cinema goers to something truly unique. A film where you can almost taste the sea salt and grime, and feel the Atlantic rain and wind. A visceral experience, that steps from the screen into your soul, burying itself deep into your memory.

I have no more beans to spill, and suggest you experience The Lighthouse for yourselves on the big screen soon.


Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell:
Ding-dong.
Hark! now I hear them,—ding-dong, bell.

William Shakespeare (The Tempest)

Director: Roger Eggers

Cast: Robert Pattinson and William Defoe

USA/Canada (2019)


Read more reviews from BFI London Film Festival here

Robert Pattinson also appears in High Life (2019) The King (2019) Essential Horror Films