February 2020: A Month in Horror


With the decade’s second month over and done with, what happened in the worlds of horror? Well…

I finally got the chance to see The Lighthouse, which wasn’t released in the UK until January 31. The film features Willem Dafoe as an ageing lighthouse-keeper and Robert Pattison as his new hand; their task is to act like parts of a well-oiled machine to ensure that the lighthouse is kept in good working order. But over time the combination of personal antipathy, sexual frustration and nautical superstitions place the younger man in a fraught psychological state — and bit by bit, pieces of that machinery start to fall away.

Robert Eggers’ direction is what makes the film. The Lighthouse is shot in a square frame which, coupled with being black and white, lends the feel of a period photograph brought to life; but this verisimilitude is offset by various weird fantasy sequences that conjure up a world of maritime horrors, from Samuel Taylor Coleridge to H. P. Lovecraft. The unsettling effect is completed by Mark Korven’s dissonant soundtrack, which takes the lighthouse foghorn (“a sound that’s so alone that no one can miss it, that whoever hears it will weep in their souls” as Ray Bradbury wrote) as its central motif.

Of the other films in cinemas this month, the biggest name is The Invisible Man, which I saw yesterday and aim to review next week (preview: I dug it). Meanwhile, dark fairy tale Gretel and Hansel — released at the tail-end of January — clocked up a not-too-bad 63% at Rotten Tomatoes; Fantasy Island, the horrored-up imaginative of the 70s TV series, earned a less impressive 10% while Brahms: The Boy II managed just 9% (I mention these details for the benefit of anyone who, unlike me, places stock in Rotten Tomatoes ratings). Colour Out of Space was released in the UK, but annoyingly, I haven’t been able to see it yet.


On the television front, one prominent release this month was the Netflix adaptation of the Locke & Key comics by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodríguez. Once again I haven’t got round to seeing it personally, but as a fan of the comics I’m looking forward to checking it out when I get the time. The general response appears to be mixed-to-positive.

In other news, the final ballot for the Bram Stoker Awards has been unveiled, but I have to say, I’ve been paying rather more attention to the latest contenders at the Splatterpunk Awards. As per my annual tradition, I am to review each and every one of them. See you then!

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