Lights Out 2016.
Directed by David F. Sandberg.
Starring Teresa Palmer, Gabriel Bateman, Alexander DiPersia, Billy Burke, Alicia Vela Bailey, and Maria Bello.
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.
Lights Out is terrifying. That is the only way I can think of to even begin describing this small budget horror flick produced by James Wan (The Conjuring, Saw) and directed by David F. Sandberg who is adapting his own excellent and revered two-minute YouTube short into a feature-length movie. The term feature-length should also be used lightly considering that the movie is only 81 minutes, but by God they will be some of the most inventively terrifying 81 minutes of your life.
The concept isn’t even anything remotely refreshing or original, but rather something executed with flawless skill. It seems fair to say that nearly everyone is afraid of the dark at some point in their lives, and that some people may still be afraid of the dark, so in that regard it only feels natural to wring out as much terror and horror from this simple idea as possible. Normally this is where I go on rants about how most modern mainstream movies suck because of their over-reliance on jump scares, but Lights Out is operating on some masterful level where that actually becomes one of its greatest strengths.
There are multiple reasons the jolts are successful, but one of the biggest is the disturbing presentation of the apparition; the movie wastes no time introducing the malevolent bitch and showcasing just how primal and violent she is in the dark. This is juxtaposed by extreme safety and relief in even the smallest of light sources. And let me tell you, there are some absolutely genius ideas for light sources. At one point a cell phone becomes a character’s greatest means of self-defense, but it goes beyond that, constantly delivering creative thrills.
It also cannot be stressed enough how amazingly subversive the main trio of characters are for what initially seems to be your average run-of-the-mill horror film. The boyfriend is presented as a douche metal-head that you can sense running away once shit hits the fan, you begin to dread the sister making nonstop dumb mistakes, and you pray that the child doesn’t do anything too unforgettably stupid. None of that ever happens; the characters are well-equipped and smart enough to believably battle evil in a way that will absolutely engage audiences. There is a scene where the child picks up a candle and begins walking around dark corridors of the household, to which I almost mentally lost it inside my head (pretty much screaming things like YOU STUPID LITTLE SHIT YOU’RE GOING TO GET EVERYONE KILLED), but became shocked at how resourceful he was with the dangerous object.
Lights Out isn’t a perfect movie by any means, considering that the film uses the mother’s attachment to the possible supernatural force as a way to say something about mental illnesses and depression, but whatever is attempting to be said is muddled and unclear. In general, the backstory is very mishandled as more of something necessary to show, rather than something interesting to create and present. The ending is a nice disturbing touch and should be applauded, although it probably would have carried more weight if certain characters and the apparition herself were more fleshed out.
It should also be pointed out that the nonstop terrifying thrills being referred to are mostly found all throughout the second half of the movie, save for a very intense opening prologue. The rest of the movie is a bunch of characters spewing exposition or learning things about the ghost that never really form into fully formed satisfying and realized ideas. The characters themselves are fine, but once again, it’s mostly due to how subversive they are for the horror genre.
With that said, Lights Out is one of the scariest modern horror films of the decade. Please Hollywood, don’t ruin a good thing by making 5,000 more of these; just let it stand on its own as a somewhat mindless horror masterpiece that will give you back that fear of the dark. I can’t even imagine what this movie will do to you if you are already afraid of the dark. Once again, at only 81 minutes, it also makes for a perfect summertime distraction in the blazing heat.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★