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The Lighthouse trailer review: For God’s sake just tell Willem Dafoe why you spilled the beans

Willem Dafoe in The Lighthouse trailer
Willem Dafoe in The Lighthouse trailer. Pic credit: A24/YouTube

One cannot argue the profound impact A24 is having on Hollywood right now. Between neverending remakes from Disney and the approaching fatigue of Marvel films, A24 is providing a much-needed niche for fresh material.

And with the latest film The Lighthouse,  originality is hauntingly realized in this first trailer.

The new film directed by Robert Eggers — who also gave us The Witch — goes for broke on the old school dread with the old fashioned look of films like Nosferatu and the eerieness of David Lynch’s Eraserhead.

There is no easy way to analyze what this footage is aiming to accomplish but it’s a privilege just being able to do so. Here is a breakdown of the latest trailer for The Lighthouse.

The Lighthouse trailer review and breakdown

The footage starts with what seems to be the first introduction between the lightkeepers. Willem Dafoe questions Robert Pattinson’s character saying, “Tell me, what’s a Timberman want with being a wickie?” to which he responds, ” just looking to earn a living, just like any man. Starting new”

And then Dafoe’s grizzled character curiously responds, “On the run.”

Does this mean he suspects Pattinson’s character to have ulterior motives for being a lightkeeper? This seems to be laying the ground for a potential mystery between them.

It could also suggest that Dafoe’s character has been stuck at the lighthouse for so long that he has become paranoid.

This is reaffirmed by the next bit of dialogue as we see Robert Pattinson holding a statuesque figure in his hand as Dafoe’s raspy voice plays over the image asking, “Keeping secrets are ye?”

Pattinson is heard quietly responding, “No sir,” as images of him working around the lighthouse stream over the conversation.

Robert Pattinson looking frantic in The Lighthouse trailer
Robert Pattinson looking frantic in The Lighthouse trailer. Pic credit: A24/YouTube

The footage then shows Pattinson looking into a hole followed by Dafoe repeating the most confusing and unsettling dialogue in the footage.

Like a creepy broken record, he repeats the phrase, “Why’d ya spill your beans?… “Why’d ya spill your beans?… “Why’d ya spill your beans?… ”

The trailer then swan-dives into pure insanity with a series of brief images which are hard to describe without context. One flash shows the two men drinking, another shows Pattinson in the water looking frantic, another has someone wielding an ax during a rainstorm, the next has Willem Dafoe screaming or howling, followed by Pattinson punching what appears to be an octopus.

During all of this, the preview shows critical responses in between. And in the next set of clips, we see the two men gazing up at the center of the lighthouse staircase while Pattinson beats his chest like a gorilla.

There is a brief tease of the two men fighting. Someone runs through a storm with an ax. With a final exclamation mark of someone (or someones’) under a table, the window explodes from a storm and a final shot outside the lighthouse as a lightning bolt streaks across the sky.

Robert Pattinson punching creature in The Lighthouse trailer
Robert Pattinson punching creature in The Lighthouse trailer. Pic credit: A24/YouTube

As the trailer comes to a close, Dafoe asks Pattinson’s character, “How long have we been on this rock? 5 weeks? 2 days?” Pattinson’s character seems weary as he turns around wet and beaten. Again questioning him, Dafoe says, “help me to recollect.”

The brilliant part about this trailer is that there is absolutely no way to know what exactly is transpiring in the story. It’s clearly aiming for a psychological mystery or even horror. But nothing about this footage is crystal clear, which makes it all the more compelling.

What is clear is the two men are going mad in some capacity. For what reason remains to be seen until the film’s release.

Adding to do this, the choice of using a 1.19:1 box ratio gives the film a sensation of suffocating, which adds richly to the paranoid atmosphere of the footage. It makes the cinematography feel like a character on its own.

Overall, between the old-timey texture of the film and the hauntingly ambiguous approach to the trailer, this has the potential to be one of the best films of the year. And if it’s anything like The Witch, then be prepared for this movie to linger long after the credits roll

The Lighthouse premieres in New York and LA on October 18, 2019, and will expand shortly after.

John Dotson is a film and television reviewer and commentator from Texas. His favorite part of what he does is getting to discuss film and... read more
John Dotson

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