Well played sirs, well played indeed. Writer/director Chris Crow delivers us a slow burn piece of period-horror done right in ‘The Lighthouse’.
Possibly best described as a drama with a creepy conclusion, the films minimal number of characters and differing environments, and the heavy reliance on dialogue, sees the film more akin to a recorded stage production than what you might consider a modern horror release.
If you were hoping this film would have GCI ghosts popping out of the shadows of a haunted lighthouse then perhaps give this review a skip, but if the thought of a traditional maritime yarn delivered with authenticity and gusto stokes the embers of your curiosity, then, please, read on.
‘The Lighthouse’ tells the ill-fated tale of two lighthouse keepers as they wrangle with their sense of duty, morality and ultimately their sanity as a storm sets in on their island. Set in the 1800s, where being 25 miles off the coast pretty much put you on another planet by today’s standards the two must rely on experience and integrity at every step if they are to make it through the ordeal, no help is coming, supplies are running low, the job still needs to be done and personal demons to contend with.
With the film essentially taking place almost entirely on either of the two floors of a small wooden lighthouse, the duo of actors doing a fine job of bringing the perils of lighthouse keeping in the period to life. I will admit to knowing absolutely naff-all about lighthouses, or their keeping, but it wasn’t long before the film had convinced me that the grizzled appearance of the characters, and their sombre outlook on life was warranted given their respective positions. The films dialogue paints a vivid picture of a life and situation which extends beyond the films claustrophobic sets. The atmosphere builds organically, with every ebb and flow of circumstance and pivotal moment in the plot I felt a sense of both purpose and foreboding. Still, despite the desperateness of their plight, the film still finds necessary moments of light relief where there ought to be none, again a testament to the films focus on the human spirit and psyche.
All of the above purely down to the top-notch delivery of a well written script. Fantastic performances all round.
The horror elements really only come in the films final third and even then, are mild compared to today’s trends. This movie really isn’t a ‘horror film’, psychological at best (and even then, I would still say dark drama). It very much reminds me of the type of creepy mini-series which come on the BBC at Christmas. Personally, I found it gave the film its own identity and I really enjoyed it, however, it needs to be said that this is very much a dialogue driven experience and not a film which delivers strategically placed set pieces to keep pace. There is a culmination of threat towards the end, but it requires an investment of both imagination and patience.
Overall, it’s a recommendation for me but on the proviso you paid attention to my second paragraph, this feels like it could (and probably would) have made a good stage show. I know there are those of you out there who love traditional ‘storytelling’ horror so I urge you to check this out; its got atmosphere and great delivery.