Lights Out, 2016.
Directed by David F. Sandberg
Starring: Teresa Palmer, Gabriel Bateman, Maria Bello and Alexander DiPersia.
Plagued by an entity that only reveals itself when the lights are out, Rebecca and her little brother, Martin, work to find a way to rid their house of the spirit that is only tied to this world through their mother.
Following the same architectural design as other infamous jump scare horror films, Lights Out stands out among the overwhelming volume of films that flood this genre as a diamond in the rough. It should be safe to say that Sanberg’s first full length directorial debut has landed him instant recognition despite the film possessing such a weak narrative. Following in the wake of the 2016 jump scare horror flop, The Forest, Sanberg’s film graced the genre with little to no expectations of being good. For the few that remember the viral short of 2013 that this film is based on, those of you might also have been a part of the hopeful few that had anticipated this movie to be great. It seems they were right. Based on the 2013 viral film of the same name, Sanberg’s talent was almost instantly noticed by veteran horror producer, James Wan. With the guidance and knowledge of an experienced professional, Sanberg excels at his craft; pushing beyond the gimmicky foundation of jump scares, Sanberg’s style and imagination creates a convincing argument for the film’s approach to this genre.
Although Lights Out ticks off almost every uninspired horror cliché, using flickering lights, dead phones, curious children and mirror reflections to destabilise the comfort of its audience, Sanberg’s film remains evermore memorable for two reasons. Firstly, the calibre of acting for a horror flick is excellent, allowing the audience to better relate and feel for the characters. Secondly, the creativity involved in forming some scenes is surprising. With such a limited horror trope to work with, Sanberg excels at providing the audience with something new for every scare. Horrifically inventive and devilishly creative, Sanberg tackles every new frightening moment with more creativity than the one before it.
Although the premise for this film is nothing new, it succeeds in being so wonderfully imaginative. [Rec] 2 implores the same horror trope towards its conclusion, as does Vanishing on 7th Street, but Sanberg’s use of practical effects in favour of CGI generate a more inclusive reality for those that want to emerge themselves in the horror they see unravelling before them. Exhausting the spectrum of what is possible when using the light and dark horror trope; Sanberg calls on every sensory faculty to amplify each scare. Using intensely loud noises and a beautiful visual aesthetic, the result is a dramatic and thrilling feature that grips a hold of your attention. Teeming with terror, Sanberg’s Lights Out is a visually gripping horror that doesn’t let go, even after you leave the theatre. Utilising a rich pallet, comparable to The Guest and The Neon Demon, released earlier this month, Sanberg’s film oozes aesthetic. The visuals of red neon and blue black light add a second dimension to the film that pulls you in closer to the narrative.
It has to be said that the performances from the female lead roles add a realistic credibility to the film, proving that in spite of a basic narrative, it is still possible to convince the audience to care about the story. So long as the acting is respectable. Teresa Palmer creates a strong, stable and confident lead, juxtaposed against Maria Bello’s character that has trouble identifying reality from delusion, creating a more playful and interesting exchange between the two central characters. The idea that it is the mother that first see’s the apparition and not the child, like in so many horror films, is refreshing and more disturbing.
After being so pleasantly surprised with the quality of Sanberg’s debut, what remains most surprising of all is when the face of the entity is finally exposed. The films excellence evolves from the idea that there’s an unexpected level of creative originality not seen before, but what we get with the big reveal is something we’ve seen more than a hundred times. Sanberg displays the apparition head on, undercutting the successful crescendo of tension that was built up throughout the feature. Lights Out feeds you so much to believe the reveal will be horrifying, however most audience members will be disappointed.
Lights Out is both ruthless and resourceful, in equal measures. Its narrative lacks the qualities to make the film a horror phenomenon, however, the level of excellence for a directorial debut is impressive. With the strength of a great cast, a reliable horror design and a certain amount of originality, Sanberg achieves the impossible in making the gimmicky fundamentals of jump scare horrors as clever as they are frightening.
Flickering Myth Rating: Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★