Originally filmed in 1999, Lighthouse was the debut of writer/director Simon Hunter, a project he’d been working on since 1994. Whilst it’s kinda hard to see why he would spend five years pursuing the project, it’s still a real shame that it’s taken a good three years for the film to surface in the UK. In the meantime it’s played a number of festivals, and suffered the indignity of a Pan & Scan DTV US release under the bland generic re-title “Dead of Night”. It’s basically just another 80s style slasher film, with a group of people stuck in an isolated lighthouse following a shipwreck, being picked off one by one by a psychopathic killer.
So let’s just say this right off, Lighthouse is not a particularly inventive or original film, is not very scary, & seems to have entirely the wrong idea about which decade it was made in. I will also say that from beginning to end I watched it with a damned great big smile all over my face. This is very much not a film made for those who think that cinematic terror began with Scream, but more for those slasher fans who long for the good ol’ days of the 80s. So what if we’ve seen this kind of stuff before, Lighthouse is quite unashamedly an old-school slasher flick with a distinct old school vibe. In fact, the film I’d most readily compare this to is Michele Soavi’s StageFright, a similarly stylish & resolutely fun entry into a tired genre, but which still manages to create a few scenes of great tension & some hugely entertaining death scenes, whilst being very much bound by the conventions of its genre. The trouble is that Lighthouse was made a good 12 years after StageFright, so a lot should have changed in the meantime, but this is by no means apparent when watching the film, & I don’t think Lighthouse will stand up to repeated viewings quite so well as the Soavi flick (& is maybe not quite so visually impressive). OK maybe this is not what a 90s horror film should be about, but its still a good few cuts above the usual teen crap which we’ve had to endure in the name of horror over the last couple of years – something which makes its unfortunate delay particularly irksome.
Maybe Lighthouse is no classic, but it is a hugely entertaining load of old nonsense with a couple of deliciously well-executed suspense sequences, a highly entertaining sense of its own daftness & a resolute unwillingness to be simply more of the usual pap. There’s a thin line between enjoyably daft & just plain stupid, but Lighthouse manages to stay on the right side, with some effective & striking visual moments. It gains greatly from a propulsive, grand & blaring score by Debbie Wiseman, showing that there’s rather more to her than pretty melodies, & some highly entertaining performances by James Purefoy (Resident Evil), Rachel Shelley, Pat Kelman (One Hell of a Christmas) & Don Warrington (from 70s UK sitcom Rising Damp). It’s certainly no earth-shaker, but Lighthouse is gleefully unpretentious old style fun, executed with a good amount of wit & style. Crack open a couple of beers & enjoy.
I’ve been watching the UK rental DVD (R2/PAL) from Universal, which is the first presentation of the film in its original 1.85:1 ratio, enhanced for 16x9 sets. It’s a decent transfer, maybe slightly grainy at times. Audio comes with a decent Dolby 2.0 track, but sadly the only extra is a trailer. Unfortunately the retail version contains no extras either, which is a real shame as some bonus content could have turned this into a recommendable purchase. As it is, it’s still worth a rental at least for fans of 80s-style slasher flicks.