*this article contains spoilers for “The Lighthouse” (2019)
Have you ever yearned to see Robert Pattinson masturbating intensely to a very detailed vision of a mermaid with a massive, scaly vagina? Do you ever lay in bed at night and think, “wow, man, I really think my life would significantly improve if I witnessed ‘Twilight’s own Edward Cullen jerking off to the magical squelching sounds of fishy genitals?” Do you walk to class wondering if you’ll ever get what you’ve always longed for: Cedric Diggory ejaculating to his own orchestrations of a washed up sea creature?
If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, or even if you didn’t, I have a film for you: “The Lighthouse,” possibly the horniest movie of 2019. Robert Eggers’s first horror feature, “The Witch” (2015), gained a massive cult following among cinephiles since its release. Much like the anticipation that built up for Ari Aster’s “Midsommar” (2019) after the success of “Hereditary” (2018), many were looking forward to this second film — especially with a cast like Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe. Spoiler alert: it didn’t disappoint!
With an old-school 4:3 aspect ratio and a constantly striking black and white contrast, the movie establishes itself as an instant classic — I can’t believe I just unironically used that term — that snatches one’s attention from the get-go. In the first half or so, we are introduced to the two main and only characters: Ephraim Winslow (Pattinson) and Thomas Wake (Dafoe) as apprentice and employer, respectively. The story takes place entirely in or around a lighthouse on an otherwise-deserted island, where Winslow and Wake reside for an indefinite period of time to tend to the duties of caring for the place.
With little information regarding the specifics of the job in question, the audience goes into the second act of the movie still pretty unsure about what exactly is going on yet nevertheless eager to see what will happen. Soon enough, Winslow begins having vivid hallucinations about sexy, dying mermaids, giant octopi, evil birds and a man he allegedly killed — all under the influence of hard alcohol and lighter fluid. Winslow and Wake’s descent into utter madness is accentuated by their nightly drinking sessions, during which they mostly fight and, every so often, slow dance homoerotically.
As the film nears its end, shit really hits the seashore when Winslow gets closer and closer to finally breaking into the very secretive top part of the lighthouse, which Wake has cryptically kept from Winslow for the entire movie — a move that simply amplifies the young man’s curiosity about what the mysterious room holds. Chaos is multiplied as heavy storms hit the island, the house becomes filthy and unliveable and both men grow unbelievably and deliriously hateful towards one another. These threads culminate in a scene in which Wake chases Winslow around with an axe, gaslights him by telling him it was Winslow who chased Wake and not the other way around and ends up being buried alive by Winslow, who is then shown in the last shot of the film lying naked on a shore being eaten by killer seagulls.
Questions about the symbolism and deeper meaning of the film are hard to answer, even by Eggers himself. Ultimately, it is a horror-ized depiction of popular, age-old sailor myths mixed with the effects of heavy intoxication and the isolation of two batshit crazy men. “The Lighthouse,” overall, is constantly toeing the line between reality and fantasy and asks the audience to consider where this line is drawn — or if it is ever really drawn at all.