The Lighthouse ★★★★½

You cannot follow or understand The Lighthouse, you watch for the experience. It starts silent, with an old style Universal logo, and then enters a free-fall into madness.

The horror in The Lighthouse comes from how little we know. There's a series of small hauntings that grow, but never once are we afforded an explanation. The real and unreal are shot indistinguishably, forming a truly perplexing nightmare. 

With skies of foggy grey, The Lighthouse is squalid, shit-stained, and rain-soaked. It's like the Béla Tarr of horror, maintaining his apocalyptic netherworld and visuals, just not the long takes. The slow, constant tension climaxes in sequences beyond description. We enter montages of a monochrome hell containing the strangest of fantasies.

Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe are on exceptional form as the only two characters. Their lines often take the form of verbose hyper-time-specific monologues, contrasting with the quiet of so much else. Like everything in The Lighthouse, things play at extremes. Violence and sex are played as the same: tentacled, gnarled, and rotting. Light becomes literally enchanting. The darkness remains dominant.

The Lighthouse has a sense of humour, mostly of drunken antics layered in sexual tension. The insecurities and loneliness of the characters leads to a desperation we can't help but pity. Which is perfect for a film of incongruity. Nothing is scarier than the unknown and few things are funnier than the nonsensical.

The Lighthouse is weird, maddening, and ominous. It is nightmares embodied. It is difficult to surmise but that's the main appeal. As an arthouse horror film, few things top this.

2019 Ranked

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