Evan Lee Ambrose’s review published on Letterboxd:
I’m so happy that I’ve finally figured out what the most aesthetically pleasing movie of all-time is now. That was easy.
Imagine: two straight hours of two late-19th-century lighthouse keepers stuck on an enigmatic island, getting drunk, farting, masturbating, and going completely, batshit insane. Robert Eggers—a man who’s made only one other film up until this point—has delicately sowed his satirically nightmarish masterpiece together with repulsively mortifying facets that many filmmakers and even auteurs would be too intimidated to incorporate. “How’d he do it?” will be a question asked for generations down the path of cinematic discussion, and just like the film’s characters Winslow and Wake occasionally blurt, people will have nothing to immediately say after the picture but, “What?” The Lighthouse is a modern-day horror tour de force that’s up there with ominous ambitions like most recently, Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria and even the creative, optically appetizing, foreign instrument, Nobuhiko Obayashi’s House.
I hate to compare another horror masterpiece to The Shining again, but I’ve got no other choice. In cinematic scenarios like The Lighthouse, execution can overrule storyline. You look back at The Shining almost forty years later and people still don’t know what in the world was happening in that film or what the film was genuinely about. Folks have theories sure, but do they have assortative confirmation? Nay! People constantly go back to The Shining like a never-ending curse that hurts and feeds all at the same time because Stanley Kubrick’s execution of that film is psychologically hypotonic.
The Lighthouse is an exemplar in visually showing you dementia. Where its editing, uncertainty, and visuals get to take a leap at the forefront for the rare occasion, the film is able to craft something dubious; where the psychologically abusive presence tells the story more so than a deeply rooted, contextual narrative ever could. In its essence, The Lighthouse is purely attempting to be the physical embodiment of paranoia.
Other than that essential for horror exquisiteness, The Lighthouse is a technical master on its own—quite possibly one of the best put to film. From sound design, set design, score, cinematography, art direction, costume design, makeup work, special effects, and visual effects, this movie is brave enough to prove to you that it can be virtually unblemished in its assembly department. On top of that, the black-and-white color pallet hasn’t been utilized this brilliantly in a feature-length since Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List.
To say that The Lighthouse “isn’t about anything” would be an understatement to the grimmest degree. For an account with little story or plot, it seems to have a lot of substance rotting underneath the deck of its, at first glance, surface-level synopses. The Lighthouse is an investigation on sexual deprivation, forced-loathing, and the dirty little secrets we will live to hide until the day we think we have no more to lose. The sequences involving drinking and alcoholism are pretty genuine—in an exaggerated manner. Sometimes we see ourselves at our most vulnerable in our hankerings to ease pain yet, we also see ourselves at our most truthful state of mind when intoxicated.
I’m still processing Eggers’ tour de force though. Like, this perverted conundrum is not departing from my head anytime soon. But while I handle it literally as a piece of horror and emotionally—with tears of joy and everything, yes; shutup—I can tell yee fellas affirmatively that, as a “film,” I have yet to spot something wrong with The Lighthouse. So yep, you know what that means…