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A prison ship on its way to a remote island prison runs aground on rocks and sinks. Mixed survivors of cons and prison guards struggle ashore, only to discover to their horror that another survivor has made it ashore before them. Murderous psychotic, Leo Rook, who not only had a hand in the ship's sinking but has decapitated all but one of the island's lighthouse crew. Stranded, with no means of escape or call for help, the survivors must face a night of terror as they know that since they've learned that Leo survived going down with the ship he can't let any of them live and is hellbent on adding their severed heads to his collection. Written by
Suffers from familiarity and over exuberance from its director, but still a solid sub-genre entry.
Lighthouse (AKA: Dead of Night) is directed by Simon Hunter and written by Graeme Scarfe. It stars James Purefoy, Rachel Shelley, Christopher Adamson, Don Warrington & Paul Brooke. The plot sees a prison ship on its way to the remote Marshelsea Island Prison run aground and sunk. The survivors, a mixture of cons and prison staff, struggle ashore a tiny island that's only function is to house a lighthouse. Thanking their lucky stars for surviving the wreck it's not long before they realise their luck has quickly run out. For psychotic serial killer Leo Rook has made it ashore before them and he has no intention of letting any of them survive the night.
Funded by Arts Council money, Hunter's movie took some time to make it on to the screen. What began in 1994 ended with a video release in the US (as Dead of Night) in 2000 and then two years later it got a limited theatrical release in the UK. As a slasher movie, and a generic one at that, Lighthouse doesn't veer from the norm. However, it's still a very tidy effort that gains the maximum impact from its truly eerie setting. This dark and rocky little island that is intermittently lit by the Lighthouse is perfect for stalk and slash shenanigans. And so it proves. Yes the characters are too one note and not given the best of dialogue to churn out, but for its look and nicely handled set pieces the film ends up better than average.
The cast, in spite of said bad dialogue, are more than adequate, particularly the game Shelley and the enjoyable Brooke. However, it's Adamson as nut-case Rook that leaves the best impression. As a killer Rook is really just a British version of Jason Vorhees or Michael Myers, but with his calm unflustered movements about the island, resplendent in bizarre white shoes, Rook manages to terrify and intrigue in equal measure. Why he is the way he is is not known, but this adds to the air of mystery that surrounds the man who likes to collect heads for decoration purposes! Of the set pieces, the finale is noisily OTT but works well, even if Hunter's use of slow-mo smacks of pointless pretencions. But it's with the quiet tension filled scenes where Lighthouse earns its spurs, one in the bathroom is as good as it gets for this type of film, while another involving a lifeboat down on the sand is also hold your breath enjoyable. Shot by Tony Imi on location in Cornwall & Hastings, the film is also visually appealing for those who like a grainy noir like sheen to their horror. With Hunter clearly in that frame of mind judging by his nice usage of the off kilter shot. While Debbie Wiseman's surging score has a very 50s feel to it.
It's safe to say that anyone looking for something new in this now tired of horror sub-genres will be disappointed. But the look, the feel, the setting and no shortage of the claret; more than makes up for its adherence to genre staples. 6.5/10
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