- Published Date
- by Frank Wilkins
My mother was wrong. There WAS something hellish that lived in the pitch-black corners and darkened recesses of my childhood bedroom. And I always knew that the crawl space under my bed was the shadowy central hub of all that evil activity. I knew it to be, but I was never able to prove it… until now.
Under the production team of horror master James Wan, first time director David F. Sandberg brings to big screens Lights Out, an effectively creepy little film that preys upon our primal fear of the malignant evil we all think resides in the dark. Sandberg takes that universal source of unease, and molds a spooky little yarn around it. He never tries to reinvent the genre and never shies away from the familiar. Instead he stays with many of the tried-and-true genre tropes that have always scared the pants off us, and just makes them work. It’s brisk, it’s breezy, and at a fast-paced 81 minutes, Lights Out never overstays its welcome.
After a disturbing little prelude that takes place in a mannequin warehouse (what could be more scary?), we flash forward to meet 10-year-old Martin (Gabriel Bateman) who seems to be experiencing the same unexplained and terrifying events that had once tested the sanity of his much-older step-sister, Rebecca (Teresa Palmer). Rather than face her fears, Rebecca simply moved out of the family home when she turned 16. Now she’s distant, disconnected, and almost completely estranged from her family.
Though returning home is certainly not on her agenda, Rebecca’s concern grows after she receives a call from Child Protective Services that Martin has been falling asleep in class. She has a fairly good idea what’s been keeping him up at night and knows that if it’s the same thing that drove her to abandon the family, she can’t let him face that alone.
Whatever happened to the family is centered on mother, Sophie (Maria Bello) whose current mental state continues to unravel to the point of needing heavy medication to control the deep bouts with depression. Her sickness has brought about vivid memories of a childhood spent with best friend Diana, who had severe medical issues of her own that caused extended stays in a mental institution. Well, Diana is back and has since become a frightening entity with a mysterious attachment to Sophie. Rebecca knows that Diana’s newfound obsession with Sophie means that no one is safe.
Sandberg makes a lot of good decisions that ultimately spell success with Lights Out. His basic premise – that is grounded in our instinctual fear of the dark – is certainly nothing new. In fact, it has become quite tiresome over the years as numerous directors have taken stab after stab into the darkness with hopes of finding something that works. For a whole host of reasons, most don’t. Sandberg’s perfect timing, brisk pacing, and especially his creative use of dark and light keeps us on our toes for the film’s entire run time.
For reasons that are explained away by the film’s plot, dirty Diana can’t stand the light, so she’s always gliding, sliding, and disappearing into the protection of the shadows. Heightening our sense of hopelessness, reality doesn’t seem to affect her, nor do the laws of gravity. There’s a particularly effective scenario that plays over and over throughout the film – and was even prominently featured in the trailer, so it’s no spoiler to discuss it here – involving the creature standing in a dim hallway or darkened door threshold. She’s there when the lights are out, but disappears as soon as they are clicked on. So simple, yet so effective.
Other than the occasional demonstration of what light does to her pale skin, we’re never given a very good glimpse of exactly what Diana is or what she’s made of. But her evil intentions are always made perfectly clear. Nothing kills tension more than overexposure to the villain, especially a supernatural one. Sandberg knows this and the effect is more visceral because of it.
I heard several viewers after the show say they thought the film was funny. While that’s probably just a bit of a protective reaction to having soiled the theater seat, Sandberg does often round off some of the sharp corners of sheer terror with a creative use of humor that works perfectly against the white-knuckled terror.
Despite it’s overtly simple tactics and its well-worn premise, Lights Out is definitive proof that I’ve been right all along about what dangers lurk in the darkness.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for terror throughout, violence including disturbing images, some thematic material and brief drug content
Runtime: 81 mins
Director: David F. Sandberg
Writer: Eric Heisserer
Cast: Teresa Palmer, Gabriel Bateman, Maria Bello
Tagline: You were right to be afraid of the dark.
Memorable Movie Quote: "You rbrother fell asleep in home room this morning for the third time in the past week."
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Official Site: http://www.lightsoutmovie.com/
Release Date: July 22, 2016
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: October 25, 2016.
Synopsis: Rebecca (Teresa Palmer), after hearing from her younger brother Martin (Gabriel Bateman), is being stalked by a supernatural entity only visible in the dark, which she links to a failed experiment with a childhood friend that happened many years ago.
Home Video Distributor: Warner Bros.
Available on Blu-ray - October 25, 2016
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Portuguese, Spanish
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit); French: Dolby Digital 5.1 (640 kbps); Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1 (640 kbps); Portuguese: Dolby Digital 5.1; English: Dolby Digital 5.1 (640 kbps)
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD-50); UV digital copy; Digital copy
Region Encoding: Region A
Warner Bros issues Lights Out on blu-ry and the results make for a groovy atmospheric fright night. Colors are subdued, but the lighting effects are splendid. The terror experienced here is supplied with a quality 1080p transfer that accentuates the bathing light treatment of the movie. Blacks are solid, too. Shadows are well defined and deep. The sound – presented here in an absorbing DTS-HD MA: English 5.1 track – are more than enough to bring out the starts and fits of this horror flick.
There is but only one offered. A collection of deleted scenes is presented without rhyme or reason. One of them is an alternative ending, but there is nothing of substance here. Sad, considering that – right behind Don’t Breathe – Lights Out is easily one of the year’s best horror offerings. You also get Digital HD UltraViolet code with the purchase.
Deleted Scenes (14 min)