In Theaters Now: The Lighthouse (2019)

In Theaters Now entries give insight on films currently in theaters. There is a brief review, followed by a deeper dive with SPOILERS behind the cut.

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Teeny Poster

To paraphrase someone paraphrasing Freud, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar… unless it’s an 80 foot phallus symbolizing man’s hubristic attempt to navigate the tempestuous deeps of the sea and therefore also the human subconscious.

Let’s dive in!

The Lighthouse (2019) is a historical thriller/horror film by the writer/director team of Robert and Max Eggers, fresh off their success of 2016’s jolly lighthearted romp, The VVitch. If you haven’t seen The VVItch please know I just made a joke and with the exception of Black Phillip, it is neither lighthearted nor jolly. The Eggerses have already cemented their reputation as masters of subverting horror tropes with The VVitch, and The Lighthouse delivers more of the same, yet different. Magnificent costumes, an eerie score, and some soon-to-be legendary performances all combine to make an instant classic.

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“More o’ the same, says ye?” 

From the very opening scene, the film establishes itself with an aspect ratio of 1:19.1, which means the image is square. Filmed with a variety of cameras and lenses, including 35mm and some antique equipment dating back to 1918, the resultant effect is distinctive. There was even a little sign on the way into the theater stating, more or less, ‘Yes it is supposed to be that way please don’t tell us there’s something wrong with it.’ Between the peculiar aspect ratio, the black and white photography, stark compositions, and claustrophobic but vivid angles, it feels almost as if you’re watching some brilliant throwback from the dawn of cinema, the age where so many cinematic horror traditions were founded. Another reason I was reminded of that age was Pattinson’s performance, as his wide eyes and shaggy hair reminded me of Conrad Veidt in the immortal Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

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Fun fact: Cesar the Sleepwalker’s resemblance to Edward Scissorhands started me on my journey to being a film critic. 

The story is fairly straightforward: Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson, sporting a more than passing 19th century Maine accent) has found work for the United States Lighthouse Service and is being dropped off to join Tom Wake (Willem Dafoe, genetically engineered to play this role; if he doesn’t go full Hemingway in the next 10 years we will have failed as a civilization).

The Lighthouse stands on a godforsaken, storm-washed rock infested with stroppy seabirds. The remote environment has already claimed one life, as Winslow is replacing a young man who went mad, claiming mermaids were singing to him. From the moment he arrives, Wake rides Winslow to get to work, quickly establishing a nautically flavored pecking order. Winslow is soon given almost more work than he can humanly do, and resentment blooms between the two men. The sonorous blast of a foghorn, noticeable early on and which should be jarring, inures itself and becomes no more remarkable than gulls crying or waves crashing. Wake gives Winslow task after task and insists they be done to his exacting standard, but the one thing Winslow is forbidden from servicing is The Light.

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Seriously, this movie still looks like a photo from that time period. SO PERFECTLY DONE. 

As the story winds out, it challenges the audience to read between the obvious threads: Is Wake real? Is Winslow? What really happened to the previous employee? How much of Wake’s Old Salt routine is an act, if any? What the hell is up between him and The Light?

Although Winslow manages the punishing routine well enough during his month-long assignment, a bad storm strands him on the island and he, already starting to unravel, comes straight off the spool. But anyone who’s watched the trailer knows that; the real treat is seeing it happen, how, and why. Viewers quickly realize that mysteries abound within Winslow, too.

Fans of H.P. Lovecraft, Algernon Blackwood, Arthur Machen, and the other voices of early 20th century Weird fiction will find plenty to love, as well as the dialogue, which was inspired by both Shakespeare and Herman Mellville. I will say that when the film comes out for home release I will appreciate the subtitles, as I sometimes couldn’t understand the dialogue and certainly missed crucial plot info. Fans of season 1 of The Terror, would also greatly appreciate the film and its depiction of 19th century nautical life.

And now… To the Spoilers!

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Old-Fashioned Tech Horror Week – Ringu (1998)

Welcome to Horror Movie Month here at Late to the Theater! Once a year we focus on one of our absolute favorite things, horror movies! For the entire month of October we’ll review at least two movies a week, some old, some new, and usually fitting into a weekly theme. So pop the corn, pour yourself a glass of whatever, and come along for the ride! I’ll do my best to avoid spoilers!

This week is Old-Fashioned Tech Horror Week, where we take a look at some classic films that jumpstarted the tech horror boom, as well as the trend of remaking Japanese horror movies for an American audience – Yes, I’m talking about that hair-raising* classic Ringu (1998) and its spiritual sister, PULSE (2001).  So defrag your hard drive, check my sound cloud (bruh!) and run a McAfee scan on that possibly haunted PDF your shady cousin just sent you, because you can’t spell ‘execution’ without .exe*!

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Before you die, you see…

If you’re familiar with the American version (and the memes it has spawned) then you know the story – you watch a cursed videotape and then have seven days to solve the mystery before a long-haired girl crawls out of a TV and does a herky-jerky murder dance at you. Copying the tape and showing it to someone else breaks the curse. Since I was still getting chain letters from elderly relatives in the early 2000s, the idea of being killed by not passing on some nonsense was legit terrifying.

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How I probably look to my cat when we play the ‘I’m coming! I’m gonna gitcha!’ game

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The Family That Slays Together Week – Hidden (2015)

Welcome to Horror Movie Month here at Late to the Theater! Once a year we focus on one of our absolute favorite things, horror movies! For the entire month of October we’ll review at least two movies a week, some old, some new, and usually fitting into a weekly theme. So pop the corn, pour yourself a glass of whatever, and come along for the ride! I’ll do my best to avoid spoilers!

Hola, and welcome to The Family That Slays Together Week here at Late to the Theater, a week dedicated to – you guessed it– families in peril! We’re looking at movies that imperil those most complex of situations, the family, in apocalypses both zombie and not. So sit back, relax, and stop touching your brother/sister/cousin/dog/whatever or so help me I will turn this car RIGHT AROUND.

As always, There Will Be Spoilers below the cut.

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Hidden, 2015

As mentioned in Monday’s entry Cargo, there’s such a glut of post-apocalyptic media in the world that it takes something extra special to grab one’s attention. While scrolling through Amazon’s horror offerings one night, three things about Hidden (2015) leapt out:

  • Written and directed by the Duffer Brothers, well known these days for blockbuster hit Stranger Things
  • A Skarsgard – Alexander! My favorite Skarsgard — until I remember Bill is also my favorite
  • Family survival

Ray (Skarsgard), Claire (Andrea Riseborough), and Zoe (Emily Alyn Lind) are a family fortunate enough to have happened upon a bomb shelter. Their routine is rigid: sleep is important, canned food is rationed to make it last as long as possible, Ray keeps watch at times, and Claire gives Zoe educational lessons. Meaningful rituals relieve the boredom and mark the days, such as making the daily hashtag on the wall (301 so far) and taking ‘trips’ where Ray narrates imaginary outings to Zoe.  Ray insists the family wear shoes at all times.

And always, always, they listen for signs of Breathers – gasping, throat-rattling creatures who prowl the surface in search of prey.

Fans of the Duffers’ Stranger Things will encounter notes common to both: an intelligent female child who has hidden strengths; suburban landscapes burned and blasted into unfamiliar and menacing shapes, a la Silent Hill; the military as an amorphous, untrustworthy entity. Ray even presents a warm and caring father figure a bit similar to Hopper. In a refreshing change from Stranger Things, there’s Claire, a strong and uncompromising maternal figure.

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A complaint – when rocks fall on your car, do not walk TOWARD the danger.

There’s a lot to like in Hidden –  a tightly written story, balanced and well-acted characters, decent production value, and effective use of  tension as well as a few well-placed jump scares. Skarsgard as a dad is a joy to watch (keep an eye out for his silly English matron accent). In Lind’s performance, the Duffers show again they have a great eye for spotting and working with talented kids. The actors look suitably disheveled and filthy, as they have gone almost a year without a bath. Riseborough’s hair in the bunker scenes looks like it washed up on a beach, and the light does her lovely face no favors, either.

See it if you’re patient with slow-burn thriller/horror, but not if you’re looking for lots of loud scares and pithy dialogue. This is horror aimed at a more mature, discerning audience and won’t appeal to everyone.

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Around Orlando – Horror Happenings with the Dead Girl

Around Orlando is a new feature here at Late to the Theater, wherein Achariya and I will detail local Orlando flavor. So whether you’re thinking about visiting, moving here soon, or just want to explore from the comfort of the internet, have a seat and take a gander! We will be sure to disclose any goods or services we receive. 

Recently I discovered a friend’s fiancée runs an awesome YouTube channel tying together some of my interests – horror, Halloween decor, and living in Orlando!

Say hello to Horror Happenings with the Dead Girl!

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Ironically Titled Entry – The Forgotten

Welcome to Horror Movie Month here at Late to the Theater! Once a year we focus on one of our absolute favorite things, horror movies! For the entire month of October we’ll review at least two movies a week, some old, some new, and usually fitting into a weekly theme. So pop the corn, pour yourself a glass of whatever, and come along for the ride! I’ll do my best to avoid spoilers!

Ironically titled entry because between the horrifying news last week and being out of town on a work trip, I sort of forgot to review The Forgotten. Apropos, considering the film’s subject matter, although the film itself definitely stuck in my mind. Shall we? Let’s!

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No puns, I promise!

 

Continue reading “Ironically Titled Entry – The Forgotten”