Rated: PG-13 (for terror throughout, violence including disturbing images, some thematic material and brief drug content)
Directed by: David Sandberg
Starring: Teresa Palmer, Maria Bello, Billy Burke & Alicia Vela-Bailey.
“Everyone is afraid of the dark…”
In 2013, Director David Samberg developed a short film entitled “Lights Out” that left me, and others who had seen it, wanting to sleep with the lights on. With backing from Warner Brothers, as well as the team who created The Conjuring and Insidious films, a full feature adaptation of short film was greenlit. The premise of the short film was entered around an entity that lived in the shadows and could only attack when the lights were off. The question, mainly, for the feature film is, how far can they stretch the premise before it gets old…if it does get old.
Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) remembers growing up with her mother. Her mother, you see, has some issues. Her mother is usually found pacing around a room talking to someone who isn’t there. So when Rebecca hears that her little brother can’t sleep and that something is haunting their family home, she decides to go investigate and figure out who or what was her mother talking to all those years ago. The film feels very reminiscent to a Japanese horror film (aka The Grudge or The Ring) in style and substance….but that is not a bad thing. What they did with horror in those films was break down every character motivation, as well as build characters and atmosphere from the ground up. They broke ground pushing the boundary on visual horror and you can feel that it in the bones of this movie. What makes “Lights Out” different is it’s visual use of dark vs light.When the film goes dark, you are peaking at every corner of the image so that you don’t get freaked out by what’s coming. You fear for the characters because, in the rules of this world, no one is safe within the dark.
The acting in the film is pretty good, with a pretty convincing Maria Bello as the “Depressed Mother who is talking to Ghost” stereotype….if there is a stereotype….well I guess now there is. Bello’s portrayal develops an uneasiness and desperation, making her average scenes seem full of dread for the other characters. Teresa Palmer does a decent job as the main character but I found at the beginning of the film that she didn’t seem too likeable, yet as the film played on, she became a more interesting character. The kid in the film, played by Gabriel Batemen, does a good job as well, selling the horror but I found at some points he was overplaying it. I think any kid actor could of played him but he serves his purpose. Also, kudos to Alicia Viel-Bailey for creating and performing Diana, the entity in the film. Her body movement and stature make her just creepy to look at.
Visuals and Direction:
The visuals are stunning: from the Ultraviolet light coursing through the hallways as Rebecca looks around the house to Diana’s eyes that pierce through the darkness. The amount of light used in the darker scenes play out exactly as needed, making you dread what the light isn’t showing. This is Director David Sandberg’s first feature film but for some reason it doesn’t feel like it. Each scene plays perfectly and seamlessly with each other that the film feels as if it was put together with a lot of thought. Some of the scares are a little jumpscare-y but that isn’t a big issue as long as it remains within the context of the scene. If a cat jumps out at you, it needs to be established within the context of the film (aka Jonesy from Alien) and not some random cat that just flies across the screen just due to the fact that they need a jumpscare at this moment (aka any movie from 1995 – 2005). “Lights Out” uses atmosphere, as well as, editing to imply there is something coming instead of music beats. When the lights go out, that’s when things get interesting and it’s all due to timing, which is a great quality to have in a director and the film’s editors.
Music and Sound Design:
There isn’t anything totally outstanding, it is your typical music throws for Horror films. Foreboding piano and cello music accompanied by violins and creepy tendencies. The films sound design though is very nerve wracking. Every thud, every scrap and breath reseeding out of the dark visuals paints a world we cannot see but can definitely visuals.
“Lights Out” is a great horror film and is definitely a must see if you love the genre. In line with films like The Grudge and The Ring, the film develops character development and character motivation that steers it in a path different then normal horror films. The effects and editing are astounding, leaving you guessing what is lurking in the dark.
Verdict: 8 out of 10
Lights Out is currently available on all VOD platforms and will release on Bluray and DVD on Oct. 25th, 2016.