Defiant Screen Entertainment, Rated MA
Originally and blandly called Keepers but now with a title change sure to get it confused with the 1988 Dutch pic of the same name (a.k.a. Spoorloos) and its appalling American remake, this psychodrama from director Kristoffer Nyholm speculates on the truth behind a famous mystery from way back in 1900. But it’s not much of a mystery, despite paranormal enthusiasts still claiming all sorts of kooky theories so many years later, and basically involved three keepers at the Eilean Mòr lighthouse in the Flannan Isles (in the Outer Hebrides) going into the water during bad weather, for whatever reasons, and being swept away, poor bastards. No sea monsters, no alien abductions (despite the classic Doctor Who story The Horror Of Fang Rock drawing upon the tale), just very bad luck. Sorry guys.
Filmed in four separate lighthouses (but not Eilean Mòr), this minimalist piece has three men arriving at the island in the first few minutes, and they’re all recognisable types: beefy James Ducat (Gerard Butler, who helped produce) is oh-so-noble; the older, grizzlier Thomas Marshall (Peter Mullan) is a family man with secrets; and young Donald McArhur (Connor Swindells) is a bit of a gormless twit. Early scenes have the men settling in and beginning the endless and mundane tasks that will keep them occupied during their time on the island, and although there are glimmers that something weird or supernatural is afoot (some business with a dead seagull, several grim shots of the lighthouse at night), what eventually happens is more tied in to banal blokey nastiness.
A certain dread can’t help but linger as we know that no one’s going to leave the place alive, and there’s also no doubt that toughies Gerard and Peter can really act, and yet this can’t help but be disappointing. Maybe, despite all the glowering seriousness, it really needed more pirates, mermaids, ETs and Scottish Bigfoots?