Victor Dubyna’s review published on Letterboxd:
What a way to end my week at the festival.
Pattinson and Dafoe give career-defining performances, going toe-to-toe as they slowly descend into madness amongst the elements, isolation, and a number of abstract mysteries/forces, in Eggers chilling and atmospheric nautical nightmare. The atmosphere that Eggers creates is absolutely haunting, with the beautifully stark black and white photography, which to me was sometimes reminiscent of what I saw in Bergman’s HOUR OF THE WOLF, the menacingly overpowering and bizarre sound of the foghorn, which sounds like what I would expect from some sort of Lovecraftian creature, amongst other things. This film is techically immaculate, as every frame and soundbite was an absolute treat.
The characters are fantastic, and half of the credit of how well the two leads present these characters belongs to Eggers and his brother with how well they wrote these characters. The Q&A session after the film was pretty good, and Eggers was able to confirm my guess as I was watching the film that he must have read some Melville in preperation for writing that 1890s seaman dialect. It was absolutely perfect, and the way Dafoe’s character was written felt like I was reading a Melville novel at times. Eggers clearly sees this period accuracy as important, as he said during the Q&A, “the bar is accuracy”. Eggers writes them so well, and Pattinson and Dafoe give incredibly top-tier performances with lots of range.
I don’t want to say too much about the film, as I want the experience to be a surprise. I think this is bound to be a horror classic, as this film has some of the most wonderfully surreal and chilling horror sequences in recent memory. The cinematography is stunning. The sounds in this film are orgasmically unique and scary. The slow-burn is haunting, as the progression of the character dynamics and escalation of the island’s, lighthouse’s, and characters incredibly abstract mysteries and ambiguities are intoxicating. The creativity in its ideas and the chilling effectiveness of the execution makes for a one-of-a-kind experience that I am excited to experience again, and again, and again, and again. I am so excited and eager for you all to see it.
This thing has not stopped haunting me.