It’s the beginning of the 19th century and life doesn’t look too rosy for Thomas Howell (Jibson) and Thomas Griffiths (Jones) when they are posted to ‘keep the light’ at a wooden-framed lighthouse on a tiny island off the Welsh coast. On arrival they’re told “she don’t want us here...and neither do these bastard rocks.” The pair, both grizzled and battered by time and, as we discover, personal tragedy, settle into their mundane existence at the lighthouse but their fortunes take a turn for the worse when a ferocious – supernatural? – storm whips up, throwing the cold and wild waters of the Irish Sea at the beleaguered lighthouse. The storm goes on and on but their rations are running low and there’s no hope of rescue as the storm rages furiously.
What follows is a dark and disquieting journey into the heart of madness and despair as the pair’s circumstances become even bleaker and terrible. Both men bear the scars of lives touched by death and perhaps they’ve come to the island as a penance and as a way to escape the crushing unending darkness of their lives. Crow’s movie is an exploration of what drives a man to the edge – and beyond – and as events unfold we’re plunged into a nightmare world where reality and unreality are never far apart and where, sometimes, the horrifying is much more terrifying than the horrific.
The Lighthouse is a bold, demanding film and by its very nature, it’s not likely to find favour with everyone. It’s mercilessly grim, its lead characters are taciturn and troubled and there’s no light and shade here in a story which appears to offer little more than two stern men glaring and shouting angrily at each other across a very small room. Beautifully played by the always-reliable Mark Lewis Jones and Crow regular Jibson (who also had a hand in the script), The Lighthouse is never less than a tense, immersive experience, deftly and cleanly realised by Crow, with effects so subtle they barely register as effects at all. In an entirely different league to so much of today’s cheap, derivative horror fodder (and there’s a case to be made that it isn’t really a horror film at all), The Lighthouse is a welcome beacon of quality in a genre often happy to rely on cheap tricks and easy scares and offers so much more, amply rewarding those who are willing to embrace its blunt and brittle world.
THE LIGHTHOUSE / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: CHRIS CROW/ SCREENPLAY: CHRIS CROW, PAUL BRYANT, MICHAEL JIBSON / STARRING: MARK LEWIS JONES, MICHAEL JIBSON / RELEASE DATE: JULY 8TH