Before The Witch even hit nationwide theaters back in 2016, the horror community was ranting and raving about the period piece, saying it was one of the better independent films to come out in years. That proved to be true - at least in my opinion - and so when word broke out that director Robert Eggers had written another film alongside his brother Max, I just knew it was going to be something wicked. And around Halloween last year, we finally got the movie we've been waiting for: The Lighthouse, which stars Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson as two lighthouse keepers who endure a mind-bending, delusional breakdown of sanity as they become stranded on an island. The Lighthouse has been on my watch list for what feels like forever now, and I'm honestly a little disgusted it has taken me this long to finally get to watch it, because this movie will fuck you up. You don't just watch The Lighthouse, you experience The Lighthouse, complete with the claustrophobic dread that encompasses the two characters. Watched properly (alone, at night, in the dark), the sense of unease that will overtake you will be just as strong as the waves on the island itself. It's a brilliant film that more than deserves the hype it has been receiving, and even though it's been days since my viewing, the dread of the film is still lingering in the back of my head; that's how you know a movie was effective. The Lighthouse is a phenomenal, must-see movie for people with an open mind and a love affair with the dark.
Shot in black and white (which really already sets a tone for the movie), The Lighthouse only has its two characters, since the two men are living and working in complete isolation from the outside world. Ephraim Winslow (excellently played by Robert Pattinson) gets assigned to work a four week stint on the island alongside the older, more experienced Thomas Wake (who has a stunning performance by Willem Dafoe). It's the late 19th century and the island has no visitors and no contact, so the very real unsettling isolation doesn't take all that long to begin to feel. Without giving too much of the surprises away, let's just say things at the lighthouse take a twisted and unexpected turn as a storm strands the two men on the island, with no way to get off (not like there's anywhere around them to go to anyway). There is a very surreal dark descent into utter madness and chaos as the days go on and Pattinson and Dafoe's characters go for each others throats. With little rations left and no way to call home, the men are left with only each other, secrets come to light, and the isolation begins to get the better of them both.
I'll be the first to admit that after watching this movie, I just sat there for ten minutes trying to process what the fuck I just watched. Not in the mindfucky way that movies like Saw deliver, but in a "what exactly just happened?" kind of way. While the movie is very straight forward, realistic and doesn't rely on supernatural elements to push its story, there's plenty going on in the film (even if it doesn't seem like it) that will leave you questioning what the hell just happened. Because of this, I ended up having to check out the dreaded "ending explained" articles that are scattered across the internet, and once I did that, it all came together, made sense, and I realized just how fucking brilliant this movie is. There's a part of the movie you would understand just from watching the film, but there's a whole subliminal message going on that if you know, you know. If not, I honestly don't see many people knowing without looking it up - but it's sheer brilliance. The Eggers brothers have crafted a unique, mind blowing, and beautifully terrible story with two characters you will both love and hate from the beginning until the end. Dafoe's elderly, beat up character continuously belittles and pushes Pattinsons', but you'll find yourself begging for his character to be in the scene because he's a fucking maniac. When he speaks, it's pure poetry, the way he strings words together that seemingly don't go anywhere when in fact they're going everywhere all at once (although I had to turn on subtitles for the entire duration of the film - his accent was so heavy some scenes felt like mush, so I had to read what the hell he was saying). Dafoe's portrayal of Thomas Wake is probably my favorite role of his ever - everything from what he says to his mannerisms to his mind games; it's all award-deserving and exceptional. But that's not to take away from Pattinson's undeniably remarkable and equally exceptional role of Winslow. Every word he says, the way he says it, and the look on his face as he says it, was cleverly thought out and executed, and it's really what makes his character such a memorable (and even humorous) one.
The lighthouse and island - which were shot in Nova Scotia, Canada - are simply stunning, and even the building itself has its own subtle, phallic undertones you wouldn't really think of until someone pulls it all together for you. That's how this movie is, and with its shocking (and memorable - I'll never forget the final scene) ending and fate for the men, you're in for one hell of a fucking treat. Honestly, even writing this is hard because while The Lighthouse seems to simple on the outside, on the inside there's so much going on to it that without explaining it all, I fear nothing I say can really justify the tone and mood and sadness and misery and torture that The Lighthouse has to offer. The sense of losing your sanity and believing what you're seeing... are you even really seeing it? The Lighthouse will shake you, and (much like myself) will have you reflecting on it for days to come. I cannot recommend this movie enough - if you're looking for something different and don't mind a little slow burn (which it's not even that bad) or if you saw The Witch and can appreciate that type of artsy film, The Lighthouse should be at the number one spot in your watch list. You'll thank me later (after you've consulted Google about what you just watched).