The Lighthouse (2019)


The Lighthouse is now available to rent or buy

“Doldrums. Doldrums. Eviler than the Devil. Boredom makes men to villains, and the water goes quick, lad, vanished. The only med’cine is drink. Keeps them sailors happy, keeps ’em agreeable, keeps ’em calm..” – Thomas Wake (The Lighthouse)

Roger Egger’s sublime tale of the sea, isolation and madness is undoubtedly one of the finest horrors of the past ten years. Following his 2015 masterpiece The Witch, Eggers’ nightmarish tour de force is a deliciously dark maritime horror bathed in shadows – a dreamlike journey into human fragility, humour, ambiguity, confusion and fear that feels as weathered as the towering lighthouse at its heart.

As the waves batter an isolated rock and the hungry gulls circle it for their next meal, the beaming torch of the barnacled lighthouse safely guides travelling sailors through treacherous waters. Its thick stone walls are home to two ‘wickies’, both of them prisoners of the sea as they sit surrounded by empty bottles of booze and the thick haze of pipe and cigarette smoke. Here the former lumberjack Ephraim Winslow (Robert Patterson) and his boss, the grizzled and rude old sea dog Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe), search for meaning in the light that blazes a trail for sailors over the jagged rocks. However, as isolation takes hold, the men’s lives spiral out of control as they spend their days drinking, farting and smoking before entering a rabbit hole of fear and paranoia from which there is no escape. 

The Lighthouse pays homage to a series of classic horrors, ranging from Nosferatu to The Cabinet of Dr Calligari, Psycho and The Shining, in what is, in essence, a two-person play. Here Patterson and Dafoe’s performances are exhilarating and enthralling as they bounce off one another while exploring the darkest corners of Robert and Max Eggers’ complex screenplay. The result is a mesmeric journey into secrets, lies, love, hatred and fear as both men search for meaning in a weather-beaten lighthouse. You can almost taste the sea salt and smell the stale tobacco and booze as The Lighthouse’s tongue-in-cheek horror unfolds; it doesn’t need simple gimmicks or shocks; instead, it relies on its performances, cinematography and screenplay to build a barnacle-clad prison. The Lighthouse is a modern masterpiece and a bizarre nightmare of no escape for Ephraim, Wake and the audience.

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