KyleJParker’s review published on Letterboxd:
The Lighthouse was one of those films where I avoided any and all marketing associated with it; beyond knowing the director (of which I appreciated The Witch), the two leads, and the concept, I knew absolutely nothing about The Lighthouse, and the films works best that way. While its descent into madness from the sides of both men doesn't have an incredible amount of twists and turns that could be spoiled, this one's worth experiencing raw, with career defining performances, excellent humor, and perhaps my favorite character interactions in an A24 film.
Anyone expecting a horror film out of The Lighthouse need turn their boat around; this one's about a lot of different elements (isolation, camaraderie, alcoholism, deception, malevolent forces, so on and so forth), but minute to minute scares isn't on that list. The Lighthouse portrays a solidly equal mix of the breakdown between the two leads (both of whom are FANTASTIC, and if this doesn't erase any doubt that Pattinson will wreck future roles, I don't know what will), as well a slew of drunken, rambunctious humorous bits. I absolutely forgot I was watching both actors, as they absolute define their characters. The Lighthouse is a fair bit funnier than I ever expected it to be, especially with its creative combination of insults from Dafoe.
What The Lighthouse feels a tad light (yup) on is the connection between mental deterioration and the ominous forces that surround the titular location. There's a lot of ambiguity as to what's "real" and what's simply imagined (The Shining applies here), and while the presence of alcohol and insanity certainly could explain away most of it, doing so feels cheap. Perhaps I was expecting more after the albatross-killing moment (Some clear "Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner" vibes here), but it never quite bubbles to the surface in ways I was hoping for.
That also means that I never truly felt glued to the screen in horror like I was hoping for; the stupors between Dafoe and Pattinson are the absolute best parts of The Lighthouse, and they accentuate the decay both men experience in the second half, but it isn't until the last fifteen minutes that the tension really ramps up. I appreciate Robert Eggers's desire to stick to the methodical nature of The Lighthouse; it just means this one's not an edge-of-the-seat descent, and more of a "ramp up the disparagement until there's bloodshed."
The ending of The Lighthouse might leave some baffled and bewildered, but I assert that they weren't paying close enough attention; there's no grand reveals or revelations here, just the insight of men with too much time, too much alcohol, and not enough stability. It also will make you want to nominate the seagulls for Best Actor, if such a thing were possible.
I enjoyed my time spent in the lighthouse with Dafoe and Pattinson, with another well crafted psychological dig presented by A24. While it's not their most gripping or chaotic film, it's certainly one that will stick in my memory for a long time to cum...I mean come.