Last week, I read Coffin Road by Peter May and, because I am fascinated with Scotland’s Outer Hebrides, I looked for more about the Flannan Islands, which are featured in the book. May references the unsolved mystery of three lighthouse keepers who disappeared without a trace in 1900. What happened?
The Scottish movie The Vanishing offers a possible explanation. It’s an intense psychological thriller that begins when the keepers discover a wrecked rowboat containing a chest full of gold. When another boat with two men approaches, the keepers must decide whether to mention their find to the men on the boat. Their decision leads to a frantic and unnerving cascade of events and power struggle with the visitors and among themselves.
I thought this movie was a perfect supplement to Coffin Road because, although the mystery of the missing lighthouse keepers did not play a major part of May’s story, the setting was the same and it helped me envision these isolated islands, located thirty-two miles off the coast of Scotland’s Harris Island. You would think that the rocky landscape and surging waters would offer the keepers protection from unwanted visitors, but its remote location makes them frighteningly vulnerable, and a perfect setting for an all-consuming scary movie.
I especially liked the dynamics between the three keepers. One of them is a young man who is learning the trade from the other two and is played by Connor Ryan Swindells. I thought his performance was excellent. Gerard Butler plays a family man with four young children and Peter Mullan plays an older man whose wife and children are dead. All three play convincing roles, showing what happens to the mind under extreme stress. The movie was released in 2019.
One note: The Vanishing is rated R for its violence and language that may make some viewers uncomfortable.
What’s your favorite psychological thriller? Is there a movie version?
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