As a statement of intent, The Witch was a fantastic introduction to the production designer turned director Robert Eggers. This is a great time in horror history, yet arguably more than any of its contemporaries, Eggers’ debut film went beyond mere horror to deliver true dread. This wasn’t just about what happened on screen, but also about playing to the audience’s worst fears of what could happen when the puritan parents inevitably turn on their eldest daughter. It was like Eggers was sticking a knife in the viewer’s chest, then slowly turning it ’til the tension became too much. Now, his sophomore effort is almost here. Starring former pinup Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe, and written in collaboration with his brother Max, The Lighthouse is also a period horror and looks darn eerie. You can watch the first footage below.
As you can see, it’s a trailer that sells the mood over the story, evoking the oppressive shadows and heavy fog of Nosferatu or Dr Caligari. The official synopsis is similarly minimalist, telling us that it’s about lighthouse keepers on a remote and mysterious New England island in the 1890s. Beyond that, who knows? One man asks the other how long they’ve been there, so it may be about them lapsing into insanity together. Or perhaps it’ll be about a supernatural threat, that stands in for Mother Nature against these two doomed men. Regardless, we know it was warmly received at its world premiere at Cannes this May. It’s also produced and distributed by A24, who are among the most exciting horror companies around, having made The Witch, Hereditary, The Blackcoat’s Daughter, It Comes at Night Green Room and Midsommar among others.
The leading men haven’t been shy about describing a gruelling shoot, during which they were routinely splashed in the face, made to do manual labour or buried under dirt. Eggers is a renowned perfectionist, who even had his team build a 70-foot working lighthouse because they couldn’t find one that was right. It was also shot on 35mm film and will be presented in the now antiquated Academy ratio for authenticity. Aside from being a neat visual flourish, this should enhance a pressure-cooker atmosphere that also brings all the flaws and blemishes in these men’s faces to the forefront. Further immersing us into what looks like an excellent piece of old school terror. Hopefully, it’ll be worth the effort and the wait. For now, I’m very excited.