A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Lighthouse is an 1890s-set horror movie from the director of The Witch. It's excellent, though deeply unsettling. Expect extremely disturbing violent imagery, including slicing with an ax, lots of blood, a character bashing a seagull to death, a severed human head, a human corpse with gulls plucking at its eyeballs and intestines, fighting, screaming, and humiliation, plus urinating, farting, and buckets of excrement. A character has sex with a mermaid, with thrusting, a naked male bottom, and naked breasts shown. Men masturbate in several scenes, though nothing beyond naked torsos and bottoms is shown. There's also some sex-related talk in addition to strong language like "s--t," "bitch," "bastard," and "goddamn." Characters drink frequently, often to extreme drunkenness (and hangovers), and smoke cigarettes and pipes. Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe co-star.
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What's the story?
In THE LIGHTHOUSE, Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson) arrives for work as an assistant lighthouse keeper, working under salty old seaman Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe). It's the 1890s, the work is hard, and the weather is wet and gray. Wake treats Winslow without mercy during the day, but at night, he talks to and tries to ply him with liquor, to loosen him up. At first Winslow won't drink, but before long he starts to indulge. Soon, strange things begin to happen. Winslow crosses paths with a malevolent seagull, promising bad omens. He has visions of squirming tentacles and a mermaid on the beach. A seemingly never-ending storm begins to rage, and Winslow becomes obsessed with finding out why Wake never lets anyone into the locked upper lighthouse beacon.
Is it any good?
A deeply unsettling second feature from horror director Robert Eggers, this black-and-white period piece about isolation is intense and constricting. The Lighthouse has images that are so disturbing and pungent that casual viewers may well wish they could un-see them -- but the staunchest viewers may be tempted to revisit them, just to confirm that they saw what they think they saw. Eggers not only uses grim black-and-white cinematography but a narrow, squarish aspect ratio to trap viewers inside a small space, where it's never quite clear whether things are real or the product of isolation, imagination, and fixation.
Not so much scary as it is graphic and disturbing, The Lighthouse is nevertheless a skillful, enveloping work, with two dedicated performances that are so physically and emotionally devastating that the actors must have been left completely drained. In particular, Dafoe, whose character jauntily recites ancient sea poetry through a clenched wooden pipe, gets several long takes so ferocious that they may demand to be studied in future acting classes. Eggers, who also made The Witch, creates such a complete picture of the past that it almost feels like the movie was actually filmed there. And its theme of isolation still applies today: Our glowing screens may be our own lighthouses.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about The Lighthouse's violence. How graphic is it? What's shown and not shown? What is the most shocking moment, and why?
Is the movie scary? What's the appeal of scary movies?
How does the concept of isolation in an 1890s lighthouse apply to today? Are we isolated today?
- In theaters: October 18, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: January 7, 2020
- Cast: Robert Pattinson, Willem Dafoe, Valeriia Karaman
- Director: Robert Eggers
- Studio: A24
- Genre: Horror
- Run time: 109 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: sexual content, nudity, violence, disturbing images, and some language
- Last updated: August 23, 2020
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