The Lighthouse: Cinema and Horror at It’s Finest


The Lighthouse (film poster)

Justin Peters, Entertainment and Arts Editor

Every decade, a new piece of horror media comes around to do something different, introduce a new form of fear, and of course, scare the pants off of the viewers. The 60’s had Psycho. The 70’s had The Exorcist. The 80’s had The Shining. The 90’s had The Blair Witch Project. The 2000’s had Paranormal Activity. As we near the end of 2019, I thought some worthy contenders for horror movie of the decade were Get Out, Hereditary, It Follows, and The Cabin in the Woods. But none of these movies compare to the darkest of comedies, the most whimsical of terrors, the absolute nightmare that is The Lighthouse.

The Lighthouse follows Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson), who is sent to serve a contract job as a lighthouse keeper for four weeks with a gassy old man named Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe). Near the end of the fourth week, a wicked storm approaches, stranding the two men on the island and driving them insane. 

Director Robert Eggers is known for his historical accuracy when it comes to time period in his movies. For his first feature film The Witch, Eggers aimed to accurately depict the 17th century time period for historical accuracy. The film is mostly shot with natural light, most of the film’s dialogue and story is based on writing from the time, and the spelling of the title “The VVitch” is how the word was written in the story’s period as the letter “W” was not yet in common use at the time. 

Eggers’ filmmaking in The Lighthouse is no different. Since the film is set in 1890, it was shot on 35mm black and white, augmenting the camera with vintage lenses from as early as 1918 to as late as 1938. This makes the aspect ratio approximately practically a square.

According to IMDb, “The cast and crew filmed under extreme weather conditions: Freezing temperatures, cold atlantic water, intense winds, snow, rain and no protective flora on the Forchu terrain kept them exposed to the elements throughout the shoot. Three Nor’easters blew across Cape Forchu [where they filmed] during various stages in the production. Much of the film was shot in real weather elements, so rain and wind machines weren’t needed most of the time, with Eggers stating that, ‘The most crazy and dramatic stuff was shot for real.’”

The Lighthouse is not another horror movie. It’s a cinematic puzzle that historians will study for years, much like Kubrick’s The Shining. Beautiful cinematography, above accurate dialogue, Oscar-deserving performances from Willem Dafoe (who did an entire 2-minute monologue in one take) and Robert Pattinson, and a score that keeps its creepiness throughout, makes this one of 2019’s most perfect movies.