The Lighthouse (2019): ‘In the Shaft of Madness’ – A Film Review


What do you get when you trap two men into a phallus? Let’s add a director hellbent on realism. These are some of the circumstances that led to the film The Lighthouse being made. Robert Eggers, the director behind The Witch, wanted to craft The Lighthouse as inspired by early cinema horror films. We are treated to a film in an old aspect ratio, 1.19:1 and in black and white. It is set in 1890 and the filmmakers made great effort to ensure that sounds, sets and atmospheres resembled that time. They researched the very specific language and accents to give further realism to the characters. They had a very specific vision for what they wanted this film to be and reportedly, did very well at recreating an era accurate lighthouse with which to trap these two men, played by Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson.


Two Men Intwined

The film really focuses on its male leads, this really is a film about two men trapped in a Lighthouse. This means that you really have to like the characters and possibly the actors. Both do a wonderful job in embodying some interesting characters that feel real and emotional as it all unfolds. They run the risk of not being likeable but they are able to craft this to build interest in them. They can be disgusting, ugly and horrible but it’s in these actions that you can’t pull away from the screen. It blends itself into the narrative and it builds a cynical outlook on what you see and don’t see. Somehow both realistic and fantastically poetic at times as well. It somehow makes sense for the films atmosphere.



Beautifully shot and confined in the square aspect ratio. This film knows how to build atmosphere. The Lighthouse works hard to keep things unsettling and captivating. This is a horror that is as effective as horror should be. There isn’t a reliance on jump scares and cheap thrills, but a truly character driven and yet horrid experience. The Lighthouse manages to throw some difficult imagery, whilst truly experiencing characters. The harsh realism, provides a gritty atmosphere and everything makes sense. It isn’t contrived that they are trapped there it was always meant to happen. It isn’t just the narrative but the music, the shots and the editing that makes it all happen, as it was supposed to.



The Lighthouse is an example of the revelations in horror that we seem to be having recently. 2018 was a very good year for horror but it seems to be only building. The Lighthouse being a film that is truly dedicated to what it wants to show. The atmosphere and characters are given equal amounts of devotion to be truly unsettling and that is what it is, unsettling and captivating – as horror should be. This makes The Lighthouse into a truly spectacular piece of horror filmmaking. Something to look out for. Daring and unique, pushing itself into your core. It wants to get under your skin.



Thomas Howard (Robert Pattinson) and Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe) work together on a remote lighthouse location where work is tough, but it gets all the more tough when they’re stranded by a storm.




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A Note on My Reviews

Please read ‘On Reviews‘ for a guide to how I write film reviews. Any spoilers are appropriately marked and, though I personally prefer to know little about a film before seeing it, there is a synopsis below the review for any who wish to see one.


Films Mentioned

The Lighthouse (d. Robert Eggers Canada/USA 2019)

The Witch (d. Robert Eggers Canada/USA 2015)


Further Reading

Official Site

Robert Eggers Interview

Willem Dafoe Interview

Willem Dafoe & Robert Pattinson Interview

Behind the Scenes

Deleted Scene

Lighthouse Breakdown


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This was an analytical review of….


The Lighthouse (d. Robert Eggers Canada/USA 2019)

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