DVD Movie Review | The Lighthouse (Lights, Camera, Action!)

By Thom Compton 29.11.2016

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The Lighthouse (UK Rating: 15)

It might surprise some to know that lighthouse work used to be a badge of pride. Long months in cramped quarters with another person or two, and with little to do to keep you busy beyond manning the beacon, it could drive many men crazy. Still, as gruff and weathered Tom states in Soda Pictures' The Lighthouse, now available across the UK on DVD, he mans the lighthouse, like his father before him and his father's father before that. Much like how many doctors and lawyers nowadays come from a long line of similar professions, lighthouse keepers were a revered and admired a lot.

The Lighthouse serves as a safety video from the 1800s - a reminder of what can happen when people are contained to a specific space for too long. It follows two men named Thomas, one who goes by Tom and the other by his surname Howell, with the setting being Small Islands Lighthouse in 1801. Tom has done this kind of work his whole life, it seems, while this is very likely Howell's first time. They are very different men - one broken and callous, the other hopeful and deeply religious. The juxtaposition is fairly common in these kinds of films, which is why their setting is so powerful.

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Early on it's clear this island, and this lighthouse, don't want them there. Howell, being new to this line of work, makes mistakes early on, some minor, some very extreme. The performances could easily be viewed highly, as both Tom (Mark Lewis Jones) and Howell (Michael Jibson) are played brilliantly for the first two acts. Howell gets a little unbelievable towards the end, but it's clear that there's no curse or spectre at work here. Howell's and Tom's guilt are both palatable, and they both exude torment well.

The titular lighthouse plays an interesting bad guy, in that it isn't really haunted. Instead, it allows the two men to create their own hell through guilt, shame, and an unhealthy supply of alcohol. While themes like death are present, the clear message is that shame can consume you and eat you alive, and it works supremely well. For a film where dialogue can be surprisingly devoid, it's easy to get to know these characters. This is good, because visually there's a lot left to be desired.

In a lot of ways, The Lighthouse could have been a great theatre production, which is good because a lot of the set looks obviously fake. The platform around the beacon especially looks like it was built specifically for a movie, instead of looking genuine. The surrounding ocean's green screen effects are rather obvious, as well, and one particular scene involving a mouth and some bugs is probably the roughest looking CG. While the practical special effects are generally good, the computer effects are not exactly the best, to say the least.

The Lighthouse may show its seams a lot, but it's taunt suspense is refreshingly honest. Only at one point does it stray from what makes it sublime, which is how realistic it is. The final 30 minutes have some of the worst acting throughout, but even then it's harder to turn away than to keep watching. In fact, the acting's not really that bad, it's just over-exaggerated. If you enjoy delving into the human mind, and find that the scariest reality of all, this needs to be on your list of films to find and get absorbed by.

Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10
The Lighthouse is a master class of every tension building moment in cinema history. It manages to take that "stretched so tight till it snaps" feeling and makes it into a solid 90 minute experience. There's definitely some technical issues with its delivery, but it's easy to overlook when the film is so well made, and The Lighthouse definitely is just that.

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