Review: “The Lighthouse” is a masterpiece of psychological horror and exquisite acting

Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe in Robert Eggers’s “The Lighthouse.” Credit...A24

If “The Witch” and “The Lighthouse” prove anything, it’s that director Robert Eggers is willing to take chances.  

One of the things I love most in films is when directors risk the likability of their film with one scene. For example, the ending of “Phantom Thread” when Reynolds Woodcock eats the omelet, or Rian Johnson changing the rules of the force in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” Eggers does this from start to finish in “The Lighthouse,” and with every scene, he is risking how the audience feels about the film. It’s like he’s playing poker and on every hand, he goes all in. 

Eggers even takes risks in the foundation of the film. For example, the film is not only black and white, but it has a 1.19:1 aspect ratio. An aspect ratio is how the film looks on screen (full screen or widescreen). Having a 1.19:1 aspect ratio puts the black bars on the left and right side of the screen rather than on top and bottom, giving the film a box shape in the theater. And just like in Eggers previous film, “The Witch,” the language spoken in the film is not modern-day English. This will turn many audience members off, but I loved it. 

But this film would not work if either one of the leads was not perfect, and both Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe do some of their best work in this film. I originally thought Pattinson was a terrible actor from his performances in films like “Twilight” and “Cosmopolis,” but last year I saw the film “Good Time” where Pattinson really surprised me with how talented he really is. Pattinson shocked me even more in this film, as the newest lighthouse attendant. In the film he shifts from being an introverted and quiet man to becoming an insane alcoholic. Pattinson deserves nothing less than an Oscar nomination for his work here. 

Willem Dafoe is one of my favorite actors, and after being nominated for an Oscar for two years in a row, I expected another great performance. And he delivered. In the film, he has overseen this lighthouse for years and shows Pattinson the ropes. Dafoe switches from normal old guy to crazy lunatic throughout the entirety of the film. Thanks to Eggers, Dafoe’s character keeps you guessing what is real and what isn’t. 

That is what makes this film work so well as a psychological horrorEggers keeps you guessing. Once we get about halfway through the film, you are left wondering what’s happening and what isn’t. Eggers leaves the film ambiguous and up to audience interpretation. He also does a great job of not showing too much, especially with the final scene.  

The film elements are also so well done. The cinematography is mesmerizing and the editing is on a different level. From the camera movements to what was shown on the screen, there are certain shots in this film that are unforgettable. The editing is equally as incredible as the first half begins as a slow-burn, while the second half becomes very fast-pacedEggers toys with the audience and has complete control of the film. 

So farthis is the best film of 2019. With that being said, I can’t recommend this film for everyone. This is an art film, and many people will be frustrated with what they see. What I can say is that this isn’t like anything I have ever seen. And after seeing “The Witch” and now “The Lighthouse,” Robert Eggers might be the most unique voice in horror today. 

Grade: A+ 

Story by Jake Ditto



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