“Why’d ya spill yer beans?” a grizzled Willem Dafoe spitefully asks over and over, to a backdrop of stark, black and white photography and ritualistic sea shanties. But he’s not alone in this ethereal plain of crashing waves and weather-beaten rocks. He is paired with a haggard, moustachioed Robert Pattinson, the only other cast member in Robert Eggers’ sophomore feature The Lighthouse. Fresh from ravishing reviews at Cannes, the newly released trailer allows us just a glimpse into the Melvillian madness at the heart of the sea.
The Lighthouse follows the duo of Thomas Wake (Dafoe) and Ephraim Winslow (Pattinson) on a remote island in 1890s New England. Wake disturbingly asks: “how long have we been on this rock? Five weeks? Two days? Help me to recollect.” Together they grapple – not only with each other and the elements – but with their sanity on the tempestuous rock. The air of distrust is heavy, as our two characters are confined by the claustrophobic walls of the titular lighthouse and a tight aspect ratio that traps us with them in their mania. We descend into stylised visuals of water up to their necks, Lovecraftian tentacles swirling around a grasping hand and the tail of a mermaid swimming tantalisingly away.
With Robert Eggers at the helm, whose terrifying directorial debut The Witch was a resounding critical success, and being distributed by A24 (who has churned out a vast repertoire of indie-darling horror pictures such as Hereditary, Midsommar, Climax and It Comes At Night), the audience are in the capable hands of someone who can deliver an ominous, lingering presence that will chill to the bones and continue with the rising trend of contemporary folk-horror.
Boasting stunning, gritty visuals and intriguing performances, the film’s tagline rings certainly true: “there is enchantment in the light”.
The Lighthouse will be released in the USA on October 18th. No UK date has been confirmed at the time of writing.
Words by Jack Roberts