Starring: James Purefoy, Rachel Shelley, Christopher Adamson
In a prison ship enroute to a Scottish coast, infamous maniac Leo Rook (Christopher Adamson) escapes incarceration by murdering a couple of staffs and hauling himself out in a life boat, rowing to a nearby rocky lighthouse isle. There, he wastes no time putting his trusted machete to bloody use, snuffing out the keepers and disabling the lighthouse's beacon which, in turn, leads to the same prison ship to crash and sink.
Surviving the ordeal is a small band of petty criminals, guards and shrinks, one of them happens to have an extensive interest on Rook's brand of psychopathy for reasons to be revealed. It isn't too long before the poor lads (and lady) figure out something's off about the isle, especially when they start to thin down in numbers, snuffed out one-by-one with their heads missing and collected.
Story-wise, Lighthouse is barely a complex run; it's your routine hack-and-stab plotting in which people are finding ways how to escape their predicament only to fall into the blade of our killer. But what it lacks in big twists and turns is made up for its direction, particularly within its generous abundance of suspense scenes and stylized visuals, thus giving this film quite an impressive stance.
There are more than one occasion wherein the movie plays around with its scares and kills, shooting at odd angles, prolonging scenes and muting all noises and/or colors to justify the intensity of its set pieces. Best examples of this work include a claustrophobic loo horror as a guard tries to hide from the killer in a toilet stall as the latter inspects the room, and another involving an excruciatingly troublesome moment when a poor lad has to take drastic measures to free himself from a dead weight, continued further as he pleads for anyone at the other side of a door to let him in as the killer approaches by the second. Often perfectly timed and interestingly shot, the resulting attacks and/or murders are always a grand to watch, in turn.
The bloodletting accompanying these scenes may be far off your typical gore geysers, but they are still savage enough to feel the weight and impact of each machete fall, especially when the resulting bloodshed are done with full fairly gruesome practical effects and a lot of impressive dismembered latex bodies soaked in red stuff. The killer committing the spree also has a good deal of menace to them; mostly cloaked in shadows and barely uttering a word, Adamson made an effective human monster out of Rook, with his sick fascination for hoarding heads and the casual approach to his slayings.
If there will be any drawbacks I can point out regarding Lighthouse (1999), it would be the fact that the pacing within its first half can get really challenging to sit through. Seeing that the kills are far in between one another around these parts, we're mostly just watching our characters scoping out the isle and lighthouse for something that will get them off the island, not exactly fully aware of the severity of their situation yet. It wasn't until the second half, after a good deal of them already encountering and dying at Rook's hands that the movie picks itself up, rewarding our patience with a quicker pace and a spectacular finale.
The film's budget restraints also meant some shoddy acting and early day CG effects here and there, but it's not like these are some big tainting dreck that ruins the rest of the movie. Lighthouse (1999) is still a decent catch of a film, one that boasts an impressive production and genuinely creepy atmosphere. Yes, it's lacking a deeper plot and it can get a while before most of the action happens, but the overall final product is an underrated Euro-slasher with a slice of art house sensibilities, one that might fancy a viewing from a good horror fan.
1 male had his neck crushed with a length of chain
1 female had her neck snapped
1 male had his throat cut with a machete
1 male killed off screen
A number of individuals killed in shipwreck
1 male had his neck sliced through with a machete, head torn off
1 male killed with a machete
1 male killed offscreen
1 female had her throat repeatedly cut with a knife (flashback)
1 male set on fire
1 male falls unto a rock, brained
1 male found decapitated
1 male stabbed in the gut with a machete, bled to death
1 male gets a flare shoved into his mouth, caught in an explosion