The Lighthouse

The Lighthouse ★★★★★

Robert Eggers' follow-up to The VVitch is exactly what I expected and then some: batshit, brooding, insanely focused in on telling a great story, with overtones of mythology and the audacity to turn a mermaid's vagina into a body horror image. That tells you a lot about what you're getting from this over-the-top tale of two New England men slowly going insane on an isolated lighthouse island, deliberately shot with old 1920s German Expressionist lenses that were ingeniously connected to cutting-edge digital cameras, to give us the feeling that we're watching a heavily Lovecraftian tale of madness and mayhem as made back in the age of Doctor Caligari, the original Dracula and the first Frankenstein. It gives it a very particular visual patina, especially since the old lenses requires such a massive flood of light to pick anything up at all, disorienting the actors and helping to lead to such insane performances from them.

Turns out that Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson spouting Melvillian nonsense in a trope-like Maine accent is as exactly delightful as you expected when you first heard the idea; and their ramshackle journey into insanity, with so much shirtless singing, fighting and homoerotic overtones, locked inside the candelit madness of a remote lighthouse in the middle of a hurricane, is exactly what you hoped in your best indie wet dream that such a setup would produce. It doesn't really give much away to advise you to read up on the basics of the Prometheus myth before seeing the movie, because the plot itself is far away from the actual mythos; but you'll understand the notoriously head-scratching ending better if you do, and especially if you do extra credit work and read up on the sea god Proteus as well. A hugely worthy follow-up to The VVitch, grander in ambition and wildly pulling it off, when so many other recent follow-ups to Millennial indie horror hit debuts have left me disappointed (yes, Midsommar, I'm looking at you), this is one of those to watch in the middle of the night with all the other lights in your house off for maximum spooky effect. It officially missed qualifying for my "Best of 2019" list by a few days, so instead becomes my first entry in my coming "Best of 2020" list, strongly recommended to one and all.

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