The Lighthouse (15)****

Dir: Robert Eggers

With: Willem Dafoe, Robert Pattinson, Valeriia Karaman

Runtime: 109 mins

So here is a film that is 100% fully bonkers, there’s every chance you’ll hate it, and yet you really have to see it anyway. All that is communicable plot-wise is that it’s a study of madness and isolation as a pair of 19th-century New England lighthouse keepers go head to head, with Dafoe as the saltiest sea dog you ever did see, barking orders as apprentice Pattinson tends to duties.

A demented, demonic thing that starts out pitched at crazy and only goes higher, it’s at turns ferocious and morbidly funny and the effect is frequently deeply disturbing. Yet it’s not really a horror, not on any physical level anyway, though the journey into darkness certainly becomes horrifying.

Front and centre are a pair of truly unhinged performances from Pattinson and Dafoe, who throw themselves into it with unbridled gusto. Yet you never doubt for a moment that it’s all fully controlled and choreographed by writer-director Robert Eggers, who made quite a splash with period horror The Witch.

Pattinson has been making devilishly dark films for years since escaping Twilight, which we may not see so much of now that he’s the new Batman. Dafoe has been on something of a late career renaissance, with Oscar nominations in the last couple of years, and he can count himself unlucky that the only reason he’s not picking up a nomination for his work here is because the rest of the field is so strong.

Where the film has picked up an Oscar nom is for its startling cinematography, as a suffocating square aspect ratio and muted black and white provides imagery you’re not likely to forget in a hurry. All the while a booming foghorn fills the soundscape until you’re not sure if it’s on the soundtrack or happening inside your own head.

Don’t try to understand or explain The Lighthouse, just bathe in its madness as it turns in on itself, giving absolutely no quarter to anyone wanting to embrace the characters or invest in a narrative. Answers on a postcard as to what on Earth any of it means - Eggers is certainly not going to hold your hand, and in truth it doesn’t really matter. Could it all just be a load of pointless gibberish? Quite possibly, but you kind of owe it to yourself to find out.