“Terror and Madness in 1801. In Wales”
Chris Crow’s atmospheric tale of isolation, madness and death in a Welsh lighthouse gets a UK DVD release courtesy of co-financiers (along with S4C, the BFI and others) Soda Pictures.
Pembrokeshire 1801. Two men, Thomas Howell (Michael Jibson) and Thomas Griffiths (Mark Lewis Jones) are despatched to Smalls Island lighthouse - a rickety wooden structure perched on a tiny island of rock twenty five miles from land. Their job is to keep the oil lamp burning and, in cases of thick fog, ring a bell as well to ward off ships.
This being Wales, the weather quickly becomes the worst possible, and as an endless storm lashes the collapsing building supplies of food and water run low. With no chance of a relief boat to save them, the two men begin to succumb to the claustrophobic, damp conditions. Howell is haunted by the seven men who died as a result of him falling asleep on a previous watch, and it turns out Griffiths, a bare-knuckle fighter in his spare time, knows all about Howell’s past. As the storm becomes the worst the two have ever experienced, the isolation drives them to the extremes of madness.
So much daft old rubbish uses the phrase ‘Based on True Events’ to justify its existence these days that’s it’s a genuine surprise to see it turn up on a story like this, which is well made, well acted, and increasingly terrifying as director Chris Crow slowly tightens the screws on his lead characters’ sanity. But it is true - it’s one of the most infamous cases in Welsh maritime history and led to a change in maritime law.
That, however, doesn’t matter as much as the fact that THE LIGHTHOUSE is a rattling good terror film in the best tradition of the works of writers like William Hope Hodgson and Henry James. Anyone who loves the kind of story where someone is driven slowly mad by the sound of a dead man’s hand tapping at a window in a storm will love this, and this film is a welcome, and surprising, release for this Halloween.
Soda Pictures’ DVD comes with cast & crew interviews, behind the scenes stuff, an alternative opening credits sequence that I liked more (because it’s a bit more horror) and a couple of trailers. THE LIGHTHOUSE is a cracking Welsh tale of terror. Watch this and then THE LIBRARY SUICIDES and be impressed by what Wales is putting out there at the moment.
Chris Crow's THE LIGHTHOUSE is out on DVD from Soda Pictures on Monday 31st October 2016. Here's the trailer: