The Lighthouse parents guide

The Lighthouse Parent Guide

A dark, brooding horror movie that is well acted but burdened with sexually suggestive scenes, some creepy violence, and over-the-top alcohol abuse. Not for families or teens.

Overall D+

Thomas Wake and Ephraim Winslow are lighthouse keepers, cooped up together in one small lighthouse, and with little to do but drink and go mad. How long before something snaps?

Release date October 25, 2019

Violence C-
Sexual Content D
Profanity D
Substance Use D

Why is The Lighthouse rated R? The MPAA rated The Lighthouse R for sexual content, nudity, violence, disturbing images, and some language

Run Time: 110 minutes

Parent Movie Review

Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattison) has been contracted to serve as an assistant lighthouse keeper under the irritable Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe) on a remote island in the Atlantic. As the job becomes more difficult, Wake more irascible, and the weather more severe, Winslow begins to question not only his mental health but Wake’s activities during his night shifts. Likewise, Wake begins to wonder if Winslow is all he appears to be - his story about his time as a timberman in Canada seems deliberately vague. As the weather worsens, Wake and Winslow are forced closer and closer to the ragged edge of sanity.

The Lighthouse is definitely on the “arthouse” end of horror, which is great, since I love that end. This does come with the downside that it probably won’t appeal to a lot of the general public- it is, in fact, weird. It’s the weird that makes it good for niche moviegoers like me – but also renders it completely unsuitable for squeamish viewers, teens, children, or anyone who doesn’t like movies that freak them out.

Robert Pattison and Willem Dafoe are absolutely captivating, which is lucky since they’re the only two characters in the film. They’ve both done a lot of work on their accents, and it pays off. While it does admittedly make some of the dialogue a little trickier to understand (unless you grew up in Newfoundland), the immersive feel is well worth it. I’ve seen some trailers for the film with subtitles, which probably isn’t a bad idea, but I think straining to hear every word is a net positive.

The film is shot in 35mm black and white film in a full-screen aspect ratio, and it looks stunning. The narrower aspect ratio feeds into the sense of social isolation and the almost claustrophobic nature of this little island. The soundtrack is minimal, mostly consisting of the lighthouse’s own foghorn, which becomes increasingly discomfiting as the film goes on. This is an excellent example of the advantages of diegetic sound, as the characters are equally disturbed by the rough bellow.

This isn’t a family film by any means, and the sexual content and profanity are more than enough to deter most people, without even getting to the violence and alcohol use. The sexual content includes not only non-explicit masturbation scenes (yup, there’s more than one), but also a scene involving a fantasy about having sex with a topless mermaid. And there is some gory violence, including the brutal killing of a bird and a couple of episodes where people are struck with an ax. If you don’t like creepy moments, you won’t enjoy watching a spider crawl out of a human skull or seagulls eat eyeballs and intestines from a dead body. There is also extreme alcohol abuse with frequent drunkenness. The men are both so desperate for alcohol that they drink kerosene when the liquor runs dry. In the film’s defense, the alcohol abuse is portrayed extremely negatively, and leads to disastrous behavior, but that doesn’t negate the rest of the content concerns. This probably isn’t a great date movie, to put it mildly.

But if you’re an arthouse fan like I am, you’ll have a wonderful time. This is a movie that makes you think, which is rather less common than I’d prefer. It’s complex and difficult to digest, forcing the audience to confront their feelings about the characters and their behavior. Whether you like the references to mythology, or Wake’s Shakespearean ranting, or whether you simply enjoy seeing movies in black and white, there’s something here for every odd movie nerd. There’s a lot less here for family audiences.

Directed by Robert Eggers. Starring Willem Defoe, Robert Pattinson, and Valeriaa Karaman. Running time: 110 minutes. Theatrical release October 25, 2019. Updated

Watch the trailer for The Lighthouse

The Lighthouse
Rating & Content Info

Why is The Lighthouse rated R? The Lighthouse is rated R by the MPAA for sexual content, nudity, violence, disturbing images, and some language

Violence: An individual falls and is knocked unconscious. A dead body is shown. A dead bird is shown. A man kills a bird by slamming it into a concrete wall. A severed head is shown with a spider crawling out of it. A fistfight occurs. A person is nearly buried alive. A man is struck in the shoulder with an ax. People are struck in the head with an oilcan and with an ax (the latter is out of camera range). A body is eaten by seagulls. Characters have graphic, frightening nightmares.
Sexual Content: There are several scenes depicting masturbation, without full-frontal nudity. There are a number of shots which include male buttocks. A man fantasizes about having sex with a mermaid: there is some detail including visible breasts.
Profanity: There are eight uses of scatological profanity, around ten uses of moderate profanity, and perhaps a dozen uses of terms of deity. There are also three uses of the sexual expletive.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Characters are frequently shown smoking tobacco. They are also shown drinking to ridiculous excess, and when the alcohol runs out, they begin drinking kerosene.

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