PORTSMOUTH — People at The Music Hall in Portsmouth were excited to see “The Lighthouse” on Saturday night.
The psychological thriller was written and directed by Robert Eggers, who grew up in Lee and is known for his critically acclaimed feature, “The Witch.” That movie was widely released in 2016 and grossed more than $40 million.
Kenneth Camp, from Enfield, and Daria Bourgery, of Blackstone, Mass., were in the audience. Camp is a volunteer for the New Hampshire Film Festival and got to choose a movie to see, so he chose “The Lighthouse.”
“I’ve heard good things about it on the film festival circuit, so I’m hoping it lives up to its expectations,” Camp said.
Critics have praised the movie, which stars Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson and is described as a folksy horror film about two lighthouse keepers who drive each other mad on a remote island in 1890s New England.
There is talk that Pattinson will receive a Best Actor nomination for his performance.
Festival organizers arranged for a Skype question-and-answer session with Eggers after the screening of the movie, which also opened in limited releases in New York and Los Angeles this weekend.
Justin Hallinan grew up in Portsmouth and now lives in Boston. He was at “The Lighthouse” on Saturday with girlfriend Brittaney Klinger and her family.
They had gone to see “Uncut Gems” on Friday night, which stars Adam Sandler. They also saw the drama “Colewell,” about a small Pennsylvania town that loses its post office.
Hallinan said Klinger is from Pennsylvania.
“It was like, here we are, watching a film about where we’re from when we’re visiting (Hallinan’s) hometown,” Klinger said.
They also went to the comedy panel held at 3S Artspace, which has become a popular event at the festival.
The panel is hosted by Greg Kretschmar, host of “Greg & the Morning Buzz.” It featured television host Tom Bergeron, actor Hayes MacArthur and actor Josh Meyers this year.
Bergeron told a story, saying he had called two of the Three Stooges when he was a teenager.
“My folks were out. My sister was at a sleepover. It was a Saturday night. I had no life. So, I called Information in L.A. for numbers for Larry Fine or Moe Howard and the operator gave me Larry Fine. His mother answered, not the Larry Fine of the Stooges, but she knew where he was,” Bergeron recalled.
Bergeron called the retirement home where Fine lived.
“The switchboard operator says, ‘I’ll get him.’ Now, my heart is beating like a jackhammer, and he comes back, the switchboard guy, and goes, ‘Larry’s playing poker. He’s got a good hand. Can you call back in half an hour?’” Bergeron said.
Bergeron did call back; Fine came to the phone; and when Fine realized Bergeron was a huge fan, Fine gave Bergeron Howard’s number, Bergeron recounted.
That night marked the beginning of an 18-month relationship where Bergeron talked with Fine and Howard about half a dozen times, he said.
Overall, the festival weekend was very busy, according to Dan Hannon, who is one of the festival’s founders.
“We’ve had a bunch of sell-outs. We’ve had to unfortunately have some people not get into some of the screenings, but thankfully, usually some of the movies we anticipate being on the popular side we’ll screen a second time,” Hannon said.
Hannon said the main attraction films with New Hampshire ties, such as “Uncut Gems” and “The Lighthouse,” get a big buzz. The Music Hall was packed for “Uncut Gems” on Friday night and some people were turned away.
“It’s a testament to seeing Adam Sandler in a different kind of role, and just a great, exciting film coming out of some of the big festivals. We’re going to see nominations for that film. I just feel it,” Hannon said.
Hannon was seeing “The Lighthouse” for the first time on Saturday night, he said.
Next year will be the festival’s 20th year and organizers are already planning for the big celebration. For more information on how to become a volunteer or sponsor, visit www.nhfilmfestival.com.