Lighthouse (1999)

LighthousePosterThis was one of those films that I wanted to like a lot more than I did. The premise had the potential for lots of grim chills. A ship load of prisoners bound for an island prison sinks after hitting some rocks. The survivors take refuge on a nearby island dominated by a lighthouse, a lighthouse that should have warned them about where these rocks were, but for some mysterious reason, the light was out!

That mysterious reason happens to be Dr. Leo Rook. Leo is a prisoner who escaped the ship before it sank, made it to shore, and killed the guys running the lighthouse and in all the ensuing action, the light gets shut off.

Night time on an isolated isle with a gang of desperate cons playing cat and mouse with one of their own? Shanks, shivs, and guys with nothing to lose up against the cunning of the mad doctor? All that was missing was the woman psychologist haunted by childhood memories of the doctor murdering her mother as she watched! Oh wait, she survived the sinking of the ship as well!

Putting aside the fact that this prison ship seems a tad half-assed since the most dangerous passenger could escape in a row boat without anyone noticing it until they started counting all the decapitated heads he was piling up on the island later on, things start off promisingly enough.

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You’ve got the mystery of Dr. Rook, the mystery of the woman doctor (Dr. Kristy McCloud) and the mystery of the wrongly accused wife-murderer, Spader. (He was either framed up or he accidentally killed her during an epileptic seizure – I never could quite figure out what his story was. And as soon as I heard that he was epileptic, I was just watching the clock until the pivotal moment in the story when a blinking light would suddenly cause him to flop around instead of saving Dr. Kristy from Dr. Rook.)

There’s also the continuously claustrophobic atmosphere of the boat and then the lighthouse which keeps the tension ratcheted up more than this generic stalk and slash story deserved.

That director Simon Hunter uses adults instead of giggly, doubting teens in the movie, along with his obvious good command of the camera gave reason to hope that Lighthouse would be a rather smart, twisted ride.

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Hunter’s big problem is that he just never follows through on any of this promise. None of the mysteries revolving around the three main characters are ever deepened, explained or resolved. All of them are as they were at the beginning of the film – potentially interesting characters.

It’s clear that with Dr. Rook and Dr. Kristy that Hunter is seeking to echo The Silence of the Lambs with the connection these two apparently share. I say apparently because we’re only let in on this in the course of a few unexplained flashbacks that Dr. Kristy has.

She doesn’t actually say anything to anyone about this (she’s supposedly studying Dr. Rook for a paper) and even more inexplicably, Dr. Rook and her never have any sort of confrontation where they hash any of this out. He just tries to choke her while she screams until Spader can swing through a window and punch him in the face five or six times.

And what’s up with Spader? We never did find out what happened with him and his wife. We never found anything else out about him beyond his handicap of going all epileptic at the most inopportune times.

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We’re also supposed to believe that Dr. Rook is pure evil genius because he had a collection of ears and fingers and other parts in his lab that he liked to study and because of his devious escape from the prison transport ship.

So, what was the point of his grandstanding kill spree when he could have been slipping off into the anonymity of the night? If he just liked killing people, why not just kill everyone while you’re still on the ship? See what happens when we know exactly zilch about a character? You can’t even write their erratic behavior off on their personality defects!

As the story unfolds, it becomes obvious that we aren’t going to be getting anything terribly original there either. After figuring out that Rook wiped out the lighthouse crew and is still on the island, the ship’s survivors still find idiotic reasons to split up so that Rook can stalk them and pick them off.

Keeping the surprises and plot twists to a minimum, Lighthouse is a seventy-five watt bulb in a hundred watt socket.

© 2016 MonsterHunter

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