Ben McDonald’s review published on Letterboxd:
It doesn’t take much more than the opening scene of The Lighthouse to realize you’re watching the work of a true master. Following up on the critical success of his chilling 2015 folk-horror debut The Witch, director Robert Eggers marches into a 19th-century setting with the swift velocity of a coal engine, channeling his obsession for authenticity through a 1.19:1 frame and a grimy coat of black-and-white paint. If The Witch treasured each of its cold-blooded scares, The Lighthouse takes equal delight in surpassing every one of its demented meltdowns, methodically backing its audience into a corner until their only remaining options are to hysterically scream or laugh. Preserving only the shrewd production design and period-accurate dialogue of its predecessor and tossing everything else out, The Lighthouse’s only discernible anchor to reality is the steady tempo of the salty waves crashing against its clammy coasts.
Opening with a deceptively humble titlecard that just as easily could have been repurposed from a 1920s silent short, The Lighthouse mysteriously departs on a barge headed towards a rocky beach. Its two enigmatic characters (Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe, both rustically unrecognizable) stare silently ahead into the fog, where the luminous beacon of a distant lighthouse- their destination- stands alone against the grey oblivion. Their previous histories are left for vague clarification later, but each’s personality emerges almost immediately as they begin their duties manning the lighthouse. Ephraim Winslow (Pattinson), the younger and more inexperienced of the two, is an irritable, spiteful creature whose sexual frustrations over being stranded on a rock with the sole company of a male tyrant materialize in unexpectedly vile ways. His more weathered partner is Thomas Wake (Dafoe), a dominating sailor whose unkempt beard and scruffy dialect call to mind a Captain Ahab parody- an amusing detail that Winslow later taunts in a fit of rage.