Tag Archives: The Lighthouse

Fright Club: 1, 2, or 3 Person Casts

Fuzzy math takes over as we count cast members and celebrate minimalist films that can seep into your nightmares with the help of very few performers. There are some great options, but here are our six favorites films with 1, 2, or 3 people in the cast.

Thanks Fright Clubber Michael for the topic!

6. Hard Candy (2005)

It would be two years before Elliot Paige burst into public consciousness as the hilarious and pregnant teen in Juno–still a kid getting herself into trouble, I guess. But the trouble in Hard Candy is tougher to manage.

Paige is a force of nature, playing off Patrick Wilson in a cat-and-mouse game where roles are flexible. Director David Slade keeps tensions ratcheted up to an unbearable level while Brian Nelson (who collaborated with Spade on the underappreciated vampire flick 30 Days of Night) twists the knife in a script as sharp and shady as these actors are wily and hard edged. It’s a breathless exploration of all that’s bad in the world.

5. Buried (2010)

If you’re claustrophobic, you might want to sit this one out. A tour de force meant to unveil Ryan Reynolds’s skill as an actor, Buried spends a breathless 95 minutes inside a coffin with the lanky Canadian, who’s left his quips on the surface.

Writer Chris Spalding stretches credibility as he tries to keep the crises lively, which is unfortunate because the simple story and Reynolds’s raw delivery makes this a gut-wrenching experience.

4. Creep (2014)

This true two-man show boasts dark and twisted humor, a great jump scare, and a truly exceptional mask.

Writer/director Patrick Brice plays Aaron, hapless videographer seeking work, thrills, maybe even love. He answers an ad to record Josef (Mark Duplass) at home, and then on the road. The film toys with that inner warning you hear and then choose to ignore.

Duplass has an incredible aptitude for pushing boundaries just enough to prick that inner voice but not quite enough to guarantee that you’ll head for the exit. As red flag after red flag go unheeded, Brice unveils more and more chilling detail.

3. 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

This one is a threesome. Well, not if Howard (a glorious John Goodman) has anything to say about it.

The feature debut from director Dan Trachtenberg toys with the idea of an alien invasion (or some kind of chemical warfare), but it keeps you snugly indoors with Howard and his guests Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.). Guess which one Howard doesn’t really want around?

The trio of performances compel your attention, even in the few down moments. This is a tight, taut thrill ride—even if it is confined to one guy’s basement.

2. Antichrist (2009)

Boy, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Willem Dafoe are a one/two punch in this one. A married couple overcoming the guilt and desperate grief of their son’s death, the two make some increasingly dreadful decisions.

Alone in their apartment, the two bodies take up much of the screen. Once we move to the cabin in the woods, the colors become deeper and darker, the atmosphere denser, and the actors appear almost tiny and insignificant inside all this throbbing, living nature. Both performances are jarring and fantastic in a movie quite unlike any other.

1. The Lighthouse (2019)

The one thing you just don’t do as you descend into madness is spill your beans.

Dafoe again, this time with Robert Pattinson as his wickie mate in one of the most fascinating examinations of power shifts in horror history. Gorgeously photographed in black and white and boasting 2019’s best sound design, The Lighthouse offers these two actors plenty to work with.

But in the end, it’s the performances that kill you. Madness!

Fright Club: Best Cinematography

A poetry of dread – that’s what the best in this business can conjure with the right framing, movement, stillness. Whether it’s Dick Pope creating that just-off feel of bucolic 1950s Idaho for The Reflecting Skin or Owen Roizman forever narrowing the screen, our gaze and our options in The Exorcist, the cinematographer is horror’s true master. Mike Giolakis kept us looking around us and behind us to see where the monster might be in It Follows. John Alcott (The Shining), Chung-hoon Chung (The Handmaiden) and Mo-gae Lee (A Tale of Two Sisters) haunted and mesmerized us with color, movement and atmosphere. Has anybody done it better?

Here are our nominees for the best cinematography in horror.

5. Kwaidan (1964) – Yoshio Miyajima

Gorgeous. If you’re looking for something theatrical, a true marriage between cinematography and set design, Masaki Kobayashi’s Oscar nominee Kwaidan delivers the goods.

Yoshi Miyajima lenses four different ghost stories, each almost entirely shot on highly decorated sound stages, and what he captures is the feeling of make believe that gives each story the sense that it is being told, being embellished for your spooky enjoyment.

Each story is given its own look, its own personality. It’s bold and memorable filmmaking, and an absolute sight to behold.

4. Antichrist (2009) – Anthony Dod Mantle

Whether it’s the utter poetry of the opening tragedy, the claustrophobic dread of the middle section, or the lurking menace of the final reels, Antichrist is an absolute treasure trove of emotional manipulation.

At times, Anthony Dod Mantle’s cinematography feels at odds with the actual content on the screen—particularly in Act 1. But mining for beauty in pain is one of many ways director Lars von Trier succeeds in surprising and horrifying with this film.

Mantle finds a terrifying beauty in ugly thing von Trier throws at you, and the end result is a mesmerizing and brutal work.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w4U5rdi9w-U&t=20s

3. Nosferatu (1922) – Fritz Arno Wagner

We needed to pay our respects to some of the earliest and most memorable work in cinema. Why F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu? Because nearly 100 years later, there are still images that haunt your dreams.

Fritz Arno Wagner (who also lensed Fritz Lang’s glorious M) capitalizes on the unseemly, vermin-like look of Count Orlock (Max Schreck, genius) with creeping silhouettes, lurking shadows, and camera angles that emphasized his hideousness.

Whether it’s the shocking rise from the coffin, the shadow on the staircase, or the image of the sole survivor of the ship recently decimated by “the plague,” Murnau and Wagner’s images are as evocative today as they were in ’22.

2. The Lighthouse (2019) – Jarin Blaschke

The atmosphere is thick and brisk as sea fog, immersing you early with Oscar nominee Jarin Blasche’s chilly black and white cinematography and a Damian Volpe sound design echoing of loss and one persistent, ominous foghorn.

Director/co-writer Robert Eggers follows The Witch, his incandescent 2015 feature debut, with another painstakingly crafted, moody period piece. The Lighthouse strands you, along with two wickies, on the unforgiving island home of one lonely 1890s New England lighthouse.

Salty sea dog Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe) keeps the light, mind ye. He also handles among the most impressive briny soliloquies delivered on screen in a lifetime. Joining him as second is one Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson)—aimless, prone to self-abuse, disinclined to appreciate a man’s cooking.

1. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) – Guillermo Navarro

In 2006, Guillermo Del Toro’s masterpiece may have somehow been overlooked as Oscar’s Best Foreign Language Film, but at least the Academy had the common sense to notice Guillermo Navarro’s cinematography.

He manages to create an atmosphere equally imaginative and bitterly realistic, something befitting a child’s logic. Like a fairy tale, the screen blends the magical beauty of good and evil. His vision is as hypnotic as it needs to be, as childlike as we need it to be. It’s beautiful, innocent and utterly heartbreaking.

I Don’t Want to Go Out—Week of January 6

Got some stuff this week – good week to avoid the chill, pull out that ratty old throw and stay on the couch, especially if you like to watch white guys descend into madness. If you do, this is your week, brother.

Click the film title to link to the full review.

Joker

The Lighthouse (DVD)

Girl on the Third Floor (DVD)

Paradise Hills (DVD)

Beyond the Sea

The Lighthouse

by Hope Madden and George Wolf

It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that there are no new ideas in modern film, that everything coming out is a sequel, reboot, adaptation or biopic. And then you spend an hour and 49 minutes with two men and a lighthouse.

What did we just watch?

Director/co-writer Robert Eggers follows The Witch, his incandescent 2015 feature debut, with another painstakingly crafted, moody period piece. The Lighthouse strands you, along with two wickies, on the unforgiving island home of one lonely 1890s New England lighthouse.

Salty sea dog Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe) keeps the light, mind ye. He also handles among the most impressive briny soliloquies delivered on screen in a lifetime. Joining him as second is one Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson)—aimless, prone to self-abuse, disinclined to appreciate a man’s cooking.

Eggers’s film is a two-man show, a dizzying, sometimes absurd and often flatulent descent into madness.

The atmosphere is thick and brisk as sea fog, immersing you early with Jarin Blasche’s chilly black and white cinematography and a Damian Volpe sound design echoing of loss and one persistent, ominous foghorn.

For everything Eggers brings to bear, from the Bergmanesque lighting and spiritual undertones to the haunting score to the scrupulous set design to images suitable for framing in a maritime museum – not to mention the script itself – The Lighthouse works because of two breathtaking performances.

Dafoe may be one of the few actors alive who can take this manic-eyed, gimpy-legged version of the Simpson’s sea captain and force us to absorb his every eccentricity. When Winslow finally screams “You’re a parody!” it both wounds and reassures, as by then we’re eager to accept any bit of confirmation that we can trust anything we’re seeing.

As our vessel into this waterlogged nightmare, Pattinson impresses with yet another fiercely committed performance. Winslow comes to “the rock” full of quiet dignity, only to become a soul increasingly tempted by mysterious new demons while running from old ones.

Winslow’s psychological spiral has so many WTF moments, it would crumble without the sympathetic anchor Pattinson provides from the film’s opening moments. Twilight seems like a lifetime ago, and in case you’ve missed any of the impressive indie credits he’s racked up the last few years, we’ll say it again: Pattinson is the real deal.

So is Eggers. His mastery of tone and atmosphere carries a weight that’s damn near palpable. The Lighthouse will leave you feeling cold, wet and woozy, as Eggers trades the literal payoff from The Witch for a series of reveals you’ll be struggling to connect.

This is thrilling cinema. Let it in, and it will consume you to the point of nearly missing the deft gothic storytelling at work. The film is other-worldly, surreal, meticulous and consistently creepy.

And we’ll tell you what The Lighthouse is not. It is not a film ye will soon forget.