Another year of cinema has passed, which means it’s time for our second annual Golden Cages awards, the only end-of-the-year awards program featuring everyone’s favorite actor as a screaming statuette! Over the next two weeks leading up to the Academy Awards, we at Flixist will be announcing our winners across seventeen different categories for what we consider the best achievements in film in 2019. Why do we wait so long into the year to do this? Because we can! So sit back, relax, and enjoy the awards.
Robert Eggers’ first feature, The Witch was a true classic and likely the best example of the arthouse horror trend that encapsulated the 2010’s. It helped propel the risk-taking production company A24 to household name status and will not soon be forgotten. I don’t know if the same can be said for The Lighthouse, and that’s a shame since it’s miles better than The Witch.
It’s a weird beast that exists in the gray space between comedy and horror that I think makes it difficult to categorize and harder to accept, especially if you are just looking for a straight horror movie. At once a daunting psycho-thriller of isolation and madness, a fantastical allegory, and a crass comedy about two dudes left too long to their own devices, The Lighthouse shows Eggers’ ability to sew more than a single tone through a film. The man who made one of most unyielding serious horror films of recent memory proves here that he’s able to lighten up a bit, and the the film is all the better for it.
Make no mistake that The Lighthouse is very much a horror movie in its bones, however. The black-and-white photography of a tumultuous sea and battered men shot in a box every bit as constrained as the island they inhabit set against a near-constant soundtrack of low-tone blares creates a constantly troubled mood. There’s murder, mayhem, and mental deterioration on full display. Absolutely bizarre images pepper the film from naked Dafoe with lighthouse eyes to the film’s final shot, and The Lighthouse instills the most important feeling any horror film worth its salt needs–a sense that at any moment anything can happen.
Carried on knockout performances by both Pattinson and Dafoe, the script shines with seaman’s curses and rough profanity. It offers just enough humor to disarm you before its next blast of insanity and stands as a testament to Eggers’ meticulous work as a filmmaker. The dialogue is dense, the accents take some time to get used to, you’re hammered with shots that don’t linger quite long enough to internalize, and by the time the credits roll you know you’ll need to watch it two or three more times to ingest all of its briny brilliance like so much coal oil mixed with honey.
It may not play its hand as straight and traditional as the The Witch, but The Lighthouse more than earns its Golden Cage for the Best Horror Film of 2019.