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Reed Alexander's Horror Review of 'The Lighthouse' (2019)

The real cabin fever movie.

By Reed AlexanderPublished 4 years ago 4 min read

This movie was absolutely gripping! There has been a recent trend of Lovecraftian style movies done in black and white. The Call of Cthulhu, for instance was done as a silent film in the same dulled fashion as the original Nosferatu. The retelling of The Colour Out Of Space was done as a black and white to emphasize the unnatural nature of The Colour.

While The Lighthouse isn't based on a story by H.P. Lovecraft, its captures the same feeling and its use of black and white is just as significant. I have often spoke of the power of simple light filters as an effect and, when done correctly, black and white can be one of the most potent effects. The contrast of shadow and highlight is purposeful. Every scene is a properly designed and drawn out piece of art. Much like Director Robert Eggers first feature length film, The VVitch, this movie is visually stunning. It is absolutely captivating as a mater of fact.

Unlike The VVitch, it wasn't unforgivably boring. Like all Lovecraftian style stories, this is about a slow downward spiral into madness. But it was so much more brutal than that. This is the finest cerebral horror I have watched in my life. It combines both the tradition of messing with the viewers perception, walking the tightrope of truth and madness, but also accosting the senses. Apart from visually stunning, the very sounds of this movie are captivating, as is the acting and dialogue. The every scene and the setting itself accosts the senses in magnificent fashion.

So, of course I must speak of the incredible acting of Willem Dafoe, and Robert Pattinson. Thomas Wake and Ephraim Winslow, respectively. Dafoe was so deep into his character, Thomas, that is was often nigh impossible to understand what the fuck he was saying. He embodied the salty lighthouse wickey so deeply, I couldn't see Dafoe beneath it. This is some seriously award-winning stuff. Pattinson does a fairly solid job as well, and while he doesn't even come close to Dafoe's performance, we can't expect the impossible.

The story is pretty simple and that has a sort of perfection too it as well. As I've often said, sometimes simplicity is key. It's especial key for cerebral horror, which in of itself, is complicated enough. This is the story of a lighthouse keeper and his assistant. The keeper, Thomas, is a heavy-handed disciplinarian the likes of Captain Bligh, and is unnecessarily cruel to his assistant, Ephraim. Thomas seems to have a history of assistants going mad and Ephraim seems to have taken the position as a way of running from his troubled past.

The setting is, as stated, a work of living art. Everything is ratty and run down. The set drips (sometimes literally) of despair and isolation. And this is, in the simplest terms, the story of two me going mad from isolation, so it really needed to drive home that sensation.

This is now officially a must watch for Horror Heads, regardless of what kind of movie they prefer. I dare say it is a bit much for general adult audiences. However, I would highly recommend it nonetheless. I have a serious impression that this movie is going to end up in my top ten as I consider it over the next few months.


What makes this story so cerebral and so griping are, of course, the characters and their interaction with isolation. As I initially explained, at its core, this movie is about two men going mad from isolation. However, there are, in fact three stories happening at the same time, as expressed through the character Ephraim. Both Ephraim and Thomas are unbelievable liars, but it goes so much deeper than that. If you were to ask Thomas, Ephraim is quite mad. This is hard to dispute as we often see the most bizarre things from Ephraim's perspective. He also exhibits some strange and erratic behaviors, occasionally being quite unpredictable and violent. Indeed, Thomas also tends to accuse Ephraim of things the audience just witnessed Thomas doing. At first, it's easy to assume Thomas is attempting to manipulate and confuse Ephraim, but as the story progresses and Ephraim's behavior becomes more erratic, I began to second guess everything. Even questioning if I correctly recalled the scene I just witnessed a moments ago. So, is Ephraim mad, or is Thomas mad, or is it something more?

That brings us to the light itself. The third layer to peal back is that the light in the lighthouse is a living thing. Some kind of entity that demands worship and is driving both men mad simultaneously. It doesn't care who it enthralls, it doesn't care who survives it, only that it has a worshiper, and that its worshiper does murder in its name. If this is the truth of this story, Thomas was mad long ago and has only adapted enough to survive the effect of the light. Now that Ephraim has arrived, it will see one or the other murder for its amusement.

It is, in proper measure, impossible to say which is true. As stated before, both men are liars, and equally both could be mad as a hatter. The light might just be a light and both men have simply lost their sense. While it is obvious that neither men are in their right wits, it's simply unknowable to what level and what on the island is real.

And that is what makes this movie so amazing. Please watch this!!

movie review

About the Creator

Reed Alexander

I'm a horror author and foulmouthed critic of all things horror. New reviews posted every Sunday.

@ReedsHorror on TikTok, Threads, Instagram, YouTube, and Mastodon.

Check out my books on Godless: https://godless.com/products/reed-alexander

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