It's Bad Luck to Kill a Sea Bird
Robert Eggers rain swept, fog horn inflected horror movie, is a heady, phantasmagoria; mostly pastiche, appropriating the photography and perfectly square aspect ratio of old, to affirm its status as an off the shelf 19th century artefact, but all inventive and deftly comic lunacy.
You can do a lot with two salty sea dogs trapped in a lighthouse if you’re inclined to heighten the mismatch of temperaments, the unsettling milieu, the imposing and unrelenting atmosphere from the unforgiving sea and its occupants, and mythology orally transmitted between drunken sailors.
Eggers movie may be all style, but when the style is this vivid, and dare we say intimate, there’s little cause for complaint. You never quite settle in this Lighthouse; the frequent changes in angle and lighting see to that, along with the mood swings and wide-eyed pronouncements of Wilem Dafoe’s unhinged wicky. Robert Pattinson’s prickly and increasingly nervous second mate, is a fine and furtive audience proxy – initially content to do his work and await the boat that will take him back to the mainland, later a troubled and besieged prisoner being eyed by circling sea birds and wanton mermaids.
Eggers, as he showed with The Witch, likes a story with the stamp of long-lost sources, which revives old speech and long neglected ideas. His talent is to recombine and repurpose these elements into something distinctive and fresh; movies that feel like rediscovered classics from specialist book shops.
The Lighthouse is a gloriously bonkers two-hander; a character drama with flashes of horror and black comedy that entertains as it unnerves. It leaves you salivating at what this director may do next, suffused with a confidence, seldom felt, that whatever it is will be worthy of investigation, no matter how esoteric the subject matter.