The Lighthouse is one insane, gutsy film to make, and Eggers nailed it with the photography, the performances, and the script. There's nothing quite like it. The A24 Collector's Edition is worth the re-purchase in 4K for its new bonus features, excellent 4K image, and collectible artwork and booklet. Highly Recommended!
In the most intense Odd Couple story-line, packed with phenomenal performances and a thick 1890s New England dialect drowning in that ocean juice called rum, Willem Dafoe plays a salty keeper of a lighthouse where a new young man (Robert Pattison) is instructed to help out with the grunt work for a long four weeks together in The Lighthouse. From writer-director Robert Eggers (The VVitch), comes this darkly comedic tale of two strangers, forced to live and work with one another in claustrophobic quarters, where alcohol takes over their sanity as creatures and storms start to rear their ugly heads.
Eggers flawlessly delivered a film set in the 1630s with the ingredients of Satan and witches. His penchant for a slow-burn horror and a family falling apart under paranormal and religious circumstances was unparalleled. The same can be said for The Lighthouse, but with an added large bit of comedy as Thomas Wake (Dafoe) and Ephraim Winslow (Pattison), eat, work, sleep, drink, and fart together in a North Eastern Lighthouse. What Eggers did for witchcraft in The VVitch with his storytelling and folklore, he brings to The Lighthouse with stories of ocean mythology, sea monsters, and more with a perfectly shot image that mimics films from the 1920s – complete in black and white and filmed in a vintage aspect ratio of 1.19:1.
When Wake and Winslow first meet each other at The Lighthouse, there is a big strong boss/meek underling dynamic where Wake constantly belittles Winslow for his shoddy work and screams at him the tales of the past and how things are done. Winslow can only bow his head and agree. But once night falls and the two eat dinner together soaked in Rum, their true nature comes forth, mixing both anger, laughter, and sentimental moments. It’s almost like watching a sitcom where two people will throw fists at one another in a fit of rage, but after one swig of Grandpa's old cough medicine, the two would-be sluggers are dancing and singing ocean-logged songs together, along with more flatulence.
As The Lighthouse keeps rounding its powerful light beam, the two men begin to lose their sense of self and begin to hallucinate, seeing other-worldly creatures and growing unaware of how much time has passed with their shrinking home quarters seemingly getting smaller by the hour, which with the elements of isolation can enhance an instability in the human psyche similar to Kubrick's The Shining. In fact, the similarities between Kubrick’s horror film and in The Lighthouse, are rampant throughout, including an axe and apparitions.
The breakout star of The VVitch was, of course, the goat Black Phillip. Here, Eggers continues that tradition with an ill-tempered seagull that seems to be the bane of Winslow’s existence. As Black Phillip is integral to The VVitch storyline, this white feathered bird is just as essential to The Lighthouse and its characters. It’s a small part of the film but is ever-affecting and haunting.
Robert Pattison and Willem Dafoe deliver remarkable performances as they have mastered the old-timey dialect to a tee and bounce off one another in their drunken stupors perfectly. Their big monologues that can be heard in the distance to their sea-shanty jingles are pitch-perfect with the right amount of subtle humor and ferocity. They can turn on a dime with their emotions in a believable way where you can legitimately see them fighting to the death or having a one-night stand at the midnight hour. It’s simply amazing to watch. Robert Eggers is continuing to impress with his uncanny ability to showcase original stories in a very unique visual style. The Lighthouse is haunting, funny, and hypnotic all at once.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
The Lighthouse shines its way to 4K from A24 in a very limited Collector's Edition release. There's only one Disc that is housed in a clothbound, black slipcase with the artwork of the film. Inside this case is a 63-page hardcover cloth book where the actual disc is located. This booklet has information on the movie, storyboards, illustrations, images from the film, and more. There is no digital code.
The Lighthouse comes with a wonderful-looking 2160p UHD 4K transfer with a new HDR master in Dolby Vision and HDR10. Eggers shot this on film and it's made to look like it was shot decades ago with its black-and-white photography and grainy look.
The color palette of course is black and white, but with this gorgeous 4K image with HDR, the grey and white levels look beautiful. The different settings outside the structure as compared to inside the house with only a lamp for lighting look amazing. Those contrasts between brighter sequences and darker settings are beautiful and noticeable in black-and-white photography. The highlights of the nuanced gray shades give the image a ton of depth and make it distinguishable between the two other colors, even in darker settings.
There are some heavy moments of grain, which is a stylistic choice that utilizes the movie's overall haunted factor. Other sequences are clean and clear, mostly being the well-lit moments outside. Detail is impeccable in closeups revealing facial pores, individual hairs, stubble, tiny bubbles in blood and drool, and dirt on the actor's faces. Textures in the feathers and in the wardrobe look amazing as well. Black levels are inky and rich with no crush. Lastly, there are no major instances of banding or aliasing that drag this image down.
This release comes with a DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio mix and looks to be the same one that was released on the Blu-ray version a few years ago. There's not a ton of dialogue in the film by the two actors, but the creepy factor really hinges on the surrounding activity and ambient noises that can be quite hypnotic. The seagulls cawing and ocean waves crashing sound mighty and ferocious. Wind, thunder, and those bizarre science-fiction noises really come together for this soundscape in the best ways. The low end of the bass kicks in well enough when the waves hit land with some additional cues in the haunting score. This is a wonderful-sounding audio track within its wheelhouse.
There are about 46 minutes of bonus materials on this A24 release. Most of them are brand new with some great new interviews. The same commentary track and deleted scenes from the Blu-ray are ported over. It still would be nice to have Dafoe and Pattison come aboard for a commentary track in character.
This A24 Collector's Edition 4K of The Lighthouse is definitely worth the re-buy. The 4K image alone looks better than the Blu-ray 1080P version and even though it's got the same audio track, the 5.1 still sounds wonderful. The new bonus features are great too. The packaging goes in line with the Midsommar release, making this Highly Recommended!