The Lighthouse follows two men who work as isolated caretakers of a lighthouse on a remote island. As they struggle with isolation and clashing with one another, things worsen with every given day. The two begin to lose their sanity and grip on reality, accelerated when their boat home doesn't arrive amidst a powerful storm.
The Lighthouse Review
Horror trends tend to come in waves, save for a few that never seem to leave (the undead will reign forever). The last several years have brought on a new trend that has, as far as I can tell, never existed before...and I like to call it, "highbrow horror". And, as the term may imply to some, I use it, somehow, flippantly and respectfully in equal parts.
The leaders of this wave are directors Robert Eggers (The Witch, The Lighthouse) and Ari Aster (Hereditary, Midsommar), who have both accounted for the most acclaimed horror movies of the past decade this side of Jennifer Kent (The Babadook, The Nightingale). I have a deep appreciation and respect for what these directors have brought to horror and they have seemingly changed the perspective on how horror is viewed amongst many critics and award biases. From my perspective, they have also created a divide amidst the horror community instigated by the "intellectual" horror fan who has used these films as a means to turn their nose up at horror fans with a more traditional taste. It's an inevitably meaningless controversy, but one that still gets under my skin.
I don't have strong feelings on the subject, but I do have firm ones. I am first in line to see the films brought by these directors and others of a similar ilk as I feel they bring an existential dread and unique arthouse style otherwise nonexistent in horror and they deserve to be admired for a near-flawless craft from the cinematography to the acting. Yet, I also consider many of these films to be one-offs. Once I've seen them, I have little to no desire to see them again. I personally put a great deal of stock in the rewatchability of films, so this is a big knock for me on their value as a whole.
That isn't to say they aren't brilliant films. Parasite is an amazing piece of cinema, yet I have no desire to ever see it again. Same can be said for The Witch and Midsommar. I've been wanting to revisit Hereditary one more time, but only to catch more of the nuance leading to the finale, and would likely not go back for thirds. I love movies, and as such I love rewatching my favorites. Few horror films fit into the prestigious category of being a high-quality horror film that is both equally intelligent, creative, and entertaining enough to be rated as highly as the highbrow horror films and also boast the rewatchability I covet. Most on my list of rewatchable films fall short of the objective qualities of high-class film, yet the value I attribute them for the entertainment they supply puts them above films of a higher ilk. So...I'm at a crossroads when it comes to these beautiful pieces of horror cinema. I respect them, but I do not love them.
And after that ever-long soapbox of sorts, you can conclude where I fall on Eggers' The Lighthouse. His ability to place you within the historical realm from which is films live is unmatched. The script, acting (unbelievable performances from both Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe), and cinematography work seamlessly together to produce an aura that puts you in the lighthouse with these two crazed wickies and holds you to their ever-growing dread and insanity. It's a masterpiece of historical and existential horror.
Yet...I have some qualms...The film seems to max out its insanity gauge with about a half hour to go in the film. Rather than having the crazy build to a fever pitch in the final act, the two wickies seem to lose full grip on reality (and therefore the audience loses their sense of reality) with at least a half hour to spare. And it gets grueling for that last chunk of time enduring the two men as they stumble over their words in a hopeless, drunken, insane stupor. Personally, I found it hard to sit through. And not in a, "I can't take the disturbing, unsettling nature of this anymore!" way, but a, "how is there another half hour to this movie when this level of insanity makes the actions of either of these men essentially pointless?" way.
To each their own. I can objectively respect a horror film for the brilliant piece of cinema it is, while also having no desire to ever watch it again. Such is the fate for The Lighthouse in my eyes. If I were the Academy, I'd throw awards at a film like this, but then lock it away in a vault and then pull out Underwater and watch it with a group of friends again. Then...I'll be first in line for the next Eggers/Aster/Kent movie and be blown away yet again.
Horror Rating System
Horror Qualifier: 7/10 Horror Quality: 5/10
Film Quality: 8/10