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SYFY WIRE The Lighthouse

The Lighthouse: The Witch director returns with a horrific, maritime tale of terror

By Josh Weiss
Willem Dafoe The Lighthouse

Robert Eggers follows up his directorial debut of The Witch with The Lighthouse, a black and white horror-fantasy flick that co-stars Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson as haunted lighthouse keepers on a mysterious New England island in the late 19th Century. Courtesy of A24 films (the project's domestic distributor), we now have the first hallucinatory teaser trailer, which can't help but give off tantalizingly tentacled drips of Lovecraftian dread that brings to mind The Shadow over Innsmouth and 2005's The Call of Cthulhu, a film adaptation that captured the classic story of cosmic horror in a similar old school, monochromatic way to The Lighthouse

Choosing New England as the main setting only helps to reinforce the Lovecraft connection for Eggers, who co-wrote the movie's screenplay with his brother, Max. After all, ol' Howard Phillips hailed from Providence, Rhode Island and often used New England as the stage for many of his terrifying stories, going so far as to invent his own town of Arkham, Massachusetts, which plays home to the equally fictional Miskatonic University. Could The Lighthouse (out this fall) unfurl off the coast of Arkham? Are Thomas Wake (Dafoe) and Ephraim Winslow (Pattinson), two salty sea dogs, being dogged in a different way by the looming presence of Dagon and His scaly followers of the deep? They do seem to start going mad after a time and insanity is yet another staple in the Cthulhu Mythos.

No definite answers are to be found at the moment, but it's some (fish) food for thought.

Check out the unsettling trailer below:

Of course, we could be wrong in our Lovecraft theory, but the first footage you just watched above still gives off the disconcerting gothic overtones of the author's iconic works. Also, there's two instances of tentacles, one of which has them whipping around behind Winslow at the 1:05 mark, so we're not shambling around like the Haunter in the Dark with our hypotheses here, ok? Since the film premiered at Cannes back in May, there are critic reviews out there, and they are rather promising.

The Lighthouse, the second feature directed by Robert Eggers (The Witch), is a gripping and turbulent drama that draws on a number of influences, though it merges them into its own fluky gothic historical ominoso art-thriller thing ... The movie, building on The Witch, proves that Robert Eggers possesses something more than impeccable genre skill. He has the ability to lock you into the fever of what’s happening onscreen," wrote Owen Glieberman for Variety.

"Eggers has once again constructed a dark fable out of absorbing imagery and sound design. The Witch cinematographer Jarin Blaschke’s pallid 35mm imagery (which boxes the characters into the Academy ratio) has a haunting, grainy quality of a genuine window into some forgotten past, while the wind and waves whip across the soundtrack alongside Mark Korven’s ominous score," echoed Eric Kohn of IndieWire. "While The Witch build its central threat around an unseen menace that gradually makes its presence known, The Lighthouse establishes the main threat from the outset, hiding in plain sight: That twirling light at the top of the building provides these moths with an eternal flame, and Thomas insists that he keeps it all to himself, which only makes Efraim want it more. In this disturbing variation on the Tower of Babel, the potential for enlightenment is a profound lie, and the men who buy into it are kidding themselves until it’s too late."

The Lighthouse movie poster

The Lighthouse crashes into the rocks and into New York/Los Angeles theaters Friday, Oct. 18. More venues will follow after that.