From the director of pre-colonial era horror movie, The VVitch, Robert Eggers’ 2019 movie The Lighthouse is a thriller following two lighthouse keepers as they fight the elements and one another for survival on a weather-battered island during the 19th century. The film is shot in 1:1 aspect ratio which adds to the claustrophobic feeling of the close quarters the two men are forced to endure. Shot in high-contrast black and white, the film is not only visually stunning, with each shot reading like an old photograph. The lack of color serves many purposes other than an aesthetic choice: The color scheme makes it near impossible to feel that any time is passing on the island and drains any sense of comfort and warmth that a movie shot in color might have. In this way, the color choice tips its hat to classic-horror imagery. Thomas Wake played by Willam Dafoe and Thomas Howard played by Robert Pattison, respectively engage in an extremely antagonistic and often violent relationship. Though they rely heavily on one another for companionship, there is an imbalance of power between the senior lighthouse keeper, Wake and his junior counterpart Howard. Throughout the film we are made aware of these imbalances, for example when Dafoe guards the lantern at the top of the lighthouse from Howard, and forces Howard to do the (quite literally) dirty work involved in lighthouse maintenance. These imbalances drive tensions to a fever pitch, resulting in explosive arguments and are potentially the force behind vivid maritime hallucinations of mermaids and one-eyed seagulls. While the ending is very similar to The VVitch also from Eggers as well as other horror movies from the movie production company A24, this thriller did not disappoint. The suffocating tension resulting in the inevitable but disturbing ending of the story of the two lighthouse keepers serves as a reminder to take a moment to calm down when the frustration of being stuck in doors begins to mount.
A time hopping tale, Susanna Kearsley’s Bellewether is the story of a house or, more specifically, the people who inhabit that house centuries apart—and whose ghosts remain. The modern narrator is Charley Van Hoek who has come to Long Island’s North Shore as curator and director of Wilde House Museum. Researching the Wilde Family who built the house in the colonial era, Charley discovers a tale of romance and intrigue in the days of the French and Indian war. As she continues her research, Charley feels a strange presence in Wilde House and she becomes obsessed with learning the secrets of Wilde House. History lovers—particular those interested in the colonial era of the communities on both sides of the Long Island Sound will appreciate the care with which this book was researched and which brings the story to vivid life. Those who are aficionados of fantasy fiction will find much to love in this book as well. Admittedly, I am not normally a fan of the latter but Kearsley does such a good job of weaving the supernatural aspects of the story into the present-day narrative and historical fiction that I soon forgot about the genre at all. Kearsley is masterful at hopping between eras without feeling stunted or short-shifting either one. I finished Bellewether longing to read similar books by this author.
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