When her little brother, Martin, experiences the same events that once tested her sanity, Rebecca works to unlock the truth behind the terror, which brings her face to face with an entity that has an attachment to their mother, Sophie.
I will admit, I’ve already broken my “any year but this one” rule, but who cares? I’ve been looking forward to seeing this one, and finally found myself with an opportunity, so here we are. This is day 5 of my #31DaysOfHorror series, and it goes to 2016’s own Lights Out, based on a short film of the same title by director David F. Sandberg. I was interested in this from the moment I saw the first trailer, feeling that it looked unique and pretty promising. That said, I haven’t seen the short film so I won’t be able to make any meaningful comparison.
So, let’s get into it with what makes this movie interesting: the rules. One of the things that makes this a movie I recommend is the unique world that it sets up, and how much commitment it has to the rules that it sets up. Many horror films will set rules, and them immediately break them, and while this one does bend its rules a little, it actually stays pretty faithful, and the result is a really effective little gimmick that makes for some genuinely creepy moments from start to finish.
The moments from the trailer, in particular the scene with a flashing red neon light, and the scene in the mannequin-and-nightmares factory, are both extremely effective and work so well to set up the ghost. One of the issues that arises does seem to be that the ghost can interfere with lights when it becomes convenient which does feel a little bit like cheating from time to time. A particular moment that stands out to me as being genuinely interesting is near the end of the film, when the muzzle flash of a gun causes the ghost to disappear briefly. It doesn’t make a ton of sense, considering how much light it would give off, but it does make for a cool shot.
That does seem to be the trade off you make with this movie, some scenes don’t make sense in a practical sense, but they do make for really cool shots and genuinely effective scares. I can’t imagine it being allowed that a massive red neon light would be allowed to flash on and off at all times, but damn does it work to create some tension.
You also have some pretty good performances to thank for this movie being as watchable as it is. Teresa Palmer (Warm Bodies) is charming and does a pretty good job. You even have a pretty solid child actor in Gabriel Bateman (Annabelle), who shows a broad and engaging performance. He handles some situations like an adult, but they feel genuine because of the extremely adult situation he finds himself dealing with, in the form of being the only other person in a home with his very unstable mother, and being her only support. The mother, wonderfully played by Maria Bello (Prisoners) makes for an interesting character, if not a bit of a problematic depiction of mental illness in some instances. That said, of course, it’s a horror movie, not a heart-rending drama about a mother with a mental illness, so I’m prepared to let that slide.
Standing tall, and terrifying, among the cast is Alicia Vela Bailey, a stunt performer who most recently worked in the excellent Westworld, and as Gal Gadot’s stunt double in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. She plays Diana, the ghost with a dislike of the light. Her physicality is excellent, and makes her deeply unsettling whenever she’s on screen. The make-up they have her in reminds me a whole lot of the ghost woman from The Conjuring, to the degree that it almost looks like it’s being reused. The make up is effective, but works significantly better when she is cloaked in shadow, with her glowing eyes.
All in all, Lights Out is a solid little movie that I would strongly recommend. It clips on by, at only 80 minutes, and makes for a spooky time that you’ll probably enjoy. It’s definitely loaded with the usual jump scares, and cliche nonsense, but I found myself not really begruding those this time around for some reason. Also, huge points for not sequel baiting, that took some real restraint on behalf of the studio, the director, and the writer. Particularly the writer, Eric Heisserer who also wrote the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Final Destination 5. That said, it looks like he is turning things around with his upcoming screenplay for Arrival.
Watch it, it’s a genuinely fun ride.
MY RATING: ****