1914. Friend (Davis Oakes) arrives at an island where he is to be the weather observer for twelve months. He is supposed to replace the previous observer but the latter is nowhere to be found. There is no one else on the island except for the lighthouse operator (a grizzled, massive, and excellent Ray Stevenson), who isn’t very forthcoming, seemingly drunk, and naked. The lighthouse itself looks like it’s been barricaded using wooden spikes.  On his first night there, Friend is attacked by unknown humanoid creatures. He survives and the following day managed to reach the operator, Grunner, and immediately learns of the situation on the island: that these creatures attack every single night, and Grunner has been living there willingly fighting them off as they lay siege to the lighthouse.

Right off the bat, we know there is something off with Grunner. He could’ve left with the boat when the captain brought Friend all the way into his lighthouse but didn’t care. He issued no warning to Friend and, seemingly, no help to his predecessor(s). He makes it quite clear that he remains by choice, and his only vague explanation is that he’d rather be master of his own domain than return to civilization. Even if it means fighting off hordes of creatures who try to kill him every night.


We know from the very opening narration from Friend that he, too, is there to seek isolation. Why else would someone take a job like that? The two men aren’t exactly alone though, as Gunner has a companion: one of the creatures. A female who could leave at any time but returns nonetheless (the creatures come from the sea), even though Gunner treats her pretty badly. Like an abusive master treats their dog. He also has sex with her.

For a film that only really has two characters to develop, the deeper motivations of each are not very well known or explored. Once the threat is established, Friend wants to leave. This would be any person’s rational response. Gunner seems to have developed such hatred for the creatures that he admits himself he wants to exterminate them all. Why, though? One of the first things he says to Friend about them and the situation is ‘’we are the invaders’’. He knows it’s not his place to remain there, and yet he stubbornly decides to hold onto his ‘’domain’’.

Gunner is actually a fascinating (if not very likeable) character who, as I mentioned, is unfortunately not completely, satisfyingly brought to light. To say that he has simply gone insane would be too easy and, I think, wrong. He seems to know exactly what he is doing and why. He is a man alone in his corner of the world, plagued by demons (both kinds), living out the rest of his existence on his own terms.  The rest of the world be damned.

Other than the theme of isolation from society, it becomes apparent that there is a strong parallel to colonialism. Friend ends up sympathizing with the creatures, which doesn’t sit well with Grunner. He also develops a more emotional and humane connection to the female companion (whom he has named Aneris, read that backwards).  However, as crazed as Grunner is at wanting to kill them all, there is also the fact they *are* attacking the humans, and defense is inevitable. So it’s the usual question of ‘’who are the real monsters here’’.

The film is beautiful, no question. Although it has horror elements, it is not really a horror film. It’s meditative and melancholy while remaining fast-paced. As I previously mentioned, Ray Stevenson gives a great performance, and is at first quite unrecognizable (I had no idea it was him when I saw the trailer). I found it unfortunate that for a film that has questions and themes to explore, that there would be too many things left unexplained and unanswered. Not that there’s any major plot points that are left unanswered, but it’s one of those movies where I find myself asking too many logic-oriented questions like ‘’how does Gruner expect to keep incessantly shooting the creatures without eventually running out of ammo?’’ ‘’Why do the creatures keep attacking when they are obviously being slaughtered by the numbers every time?’’ ‘’Why doesn’t Aneris leave, exactly?’’  And so on…

It is based on an award-winning novel, which might have more explanations than are apparent in the film. As it stands, it’s a well-made film that I think is worth seeing by genre fans, but will probably not linger long afterward.

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