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‘The Lighthouse’: Period Drama in pristine black & white Reeks of Sinister Authenticity

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official trailer for “the lighthouse”

Robert Eggers Returns to Design another Horror-Period Piece in “The Lighthouse”

In 2015, production designer Robert Eggers pulled off something quite difficult—he successfully blended the horror and period piece genres to write and direct “The Witch,” a critically acclaimed film that deals with supernatural and terrifying phenomena during the early seventeenth century. Mixing these estranged genres together is a challenging feat, but Eggers managed to do it well, earning a name for himself in the movie business.

Egger’s next film, “The Lighthouse”—which he wrote with his brother Max Eggers—will also take place in a bygone era. Set in the 1890s, this upcoming black-and-white horror movie follows the story of two lighthouse keepers as they battle cabin fever, intoxication, madness, mystery, and mayhem on a secluded New England island.

Shines an Eerie Light on stars Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson

The two lighthouse keepers are played by Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson. These two stars are the only principle members of the cast. There is only one other credited role, and it goes to an unknown actress named Valeriia Karaman who plays a mermaid. Clearly, the movie will deliver on its eerie feeling of isolation.

Still, these two actors could be enough star power to carry the film along. Willem Defoe is a veteran actor at this point. He has been nominated for four Academy Awards, most recently getting back-to-back nominations for “The Florida Project” and “At Eternity’s Gate” in 2018 and 2019 respectively.

Meanwhile, many may still think of Robert Patinson as a pretty face from the “Twilight” series, and some are suspicious of his upcoming leading role in “The Batman.” However, those who are up-to-date on Hollywood’s indie scene will know that Patinson is a more than gifted actor, as he delivered wonderful performances in both 2017’s “Good Time” and 2014’s “The Rover.”

Both actors have already received praise for their roles in “The Lighthouse,” as the film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May and critics raved about its beauty, brilliance, and above all, its masterful use of a sinister tone.

The Lighthouse Movie Still

Photo / © A24 Films

Prestigious Blend of Psychological Thrills and Supernaturalism that will Mess with Your Head

The movie is foremost a psychological thriller, as the loneliness of living together on a forsaken island leads the two lighthouse keepers into states of hypnosis and madness, so much so, that they become enemies. This makes the bulk of the movie fit into a certain subgenre of horror. One that bends the audience’s mind with surrealism in the same vein as Darren Arronofsky’s “Black Swan” or Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining.”

At the same time, given the character’s hallucinatory states, “The Lighthouse” also becomes a supernatural horror movie. We know from the casting that there will be a mermaid in the film, and the trailer shows us brief, partial images of a tentacled creature—quite possibly a sea monster.

Will these supernatural things really be there in the movie’s diegesis? That is likely up to the viewer to decide. Like many psychological thrillers, it is not always clear weather paranormal events are really going on, or if the characters are just losing their minds.

Black & White Aesthetic brings Artistic Brilliance Reminiscent of Classic Horror Films

Regardless, the black-and-white cinematography gives “The Lighthouse” a very cool look, especially when combined with these mysterious creatures. Of course, the lack of color primarily adds to the movie’s gloomy mood and ominous feeling, but on top of that, it also makes the film look reminiscent of classic Universal horror films, most potently “The Creature From The Black Lagoon.”

Cinematographer Jarin Blaschke also employs contrasting lighting and what seem to be primitive lenses in order to invoke a retro, almost German Expressionist feel. It gives the movie a very raw feeling that gives the audience a sense for the way things were at the turn of the twentieth century.

Robert Eggers impressed us with “The Witch,” and quite frankly, “The Lighthouse” looks like far less of a risk. The movie may send us back in time, but not so far back as the Salem With Trials. Likewise, it is backed by A24, which is essentially the go-to studio for indie projects nowadays. This creates an element of prestige in “The Lighthouse” that we did not quite have in Egger’s earlier films. 

This is not a bad attribute. In fact, it is a very good one for both Eggers and the audience. Essentially, we are saying that “The Lighthouse” has a larger appeal, a more promising cast, and a story that will be easier to latch on to. Also, now that Eggers has a bit of a reputation under his belt, he may be more willing to bend some rules within his craft. Of course, there will be twists and turns along the way, but we are confident that “The Lighthouse” will rattle our bones throughout and keep us questioning the truth up until its very end. 

The Lighthouse Movie Poster

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