‘The Lighthouse’ defies typical thriller genre gimmicks with stellar acting


A24 / Hilltop Views Illustration

Willem Dafoe (left) and Robert Pattinson (right) star in ‘The Lighthouse,’ a psychological thriller. The film was released on Oct. 18.

Robert Eggers’s second full-length feature film, “The Lighthouse,” was released in Austin on Oct. 24. Alamo Drafthouse did not do a 35mm screening like I thought they would in my five films to see in theaters article. However, it’s still a gorgeous film worthy of experiencing in a theater. 

Eggers’s psychological horror-thriller is a cinematic art house masterpiece starring Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson. The film is about two lighthouse keepers who drive each other insane as a storm keeps them trapped on the island longer than they anticipated. 

The cinematography is the pièce de résistance of the film. It’s shot on 35mm black and white film that adds the perfect age to scenes and brings you into the period piece. 

“The Lighthouse” is also shot with a 1.19:1 aspect ratio. Aspect ratio is the ratio between the width to height of the screen. For reference, Instagram posts have an aspect ratio of 1:1. The 1.19:1 aspect ratio heightens the claustrophobic feeling of the location. The smaller frame size means that the framing of the shot has to be perfect. 

Not only is the cinematography amazing, but the acting is Oscar-worthy. Dafoe and Pattinson are the only two actors, meaning they carry the film on their backs. Both actors deliver a raw, gritty and almost primal performance. 

Dafoe uses an accent straight out of “Pirates of the Caribbean” that sells him as the old seaman he portrays. Pattinson plays the best mad man I’ve ever seen and is a great drunk. Both deserve best-actor nominations this awards season. 

The score is fantastic. Its dark and ominous sound gives every scene a heavy feeling. Each piece of score works in a foghorn-esque sound. The foghorn is prominently heard in the beginning then stops, as if you are now tuning it out like the characters. 

The film is more of a thriller than horror. “The Lighthouse” plays more into the claustrophobic feelings and insanity of the characters rather than trying to scare you. This is not your typical horror film. There are some overtly sexual scenes, including a scene where Pattinson has sex with a mermaid. Art house films can be kind of out there, and this one is no exception. 

While “The Lighthouse” might not be understandable to all viewers, the true film connoisseur would understand that this film will sit with you, although it will require multiple viewings to understand. If you aren’t fine with films that are a slow burn, then this might not be for you. I encourage everyone to see this gorgeous film in theaters because waiting for streaming will never do it justice. Coupled with the chemistry Dafoe and Pattinson bring on-screen, it’s easily going to be in The Criterion Collection