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.
It’s a unique feat to make a film which you start to forget even as you’re still watching it. That’s been achieved by the latest jump-scare shocker Lights Out; a run of the mill horror that riffs on nearly every horror cliché there is.
Opening with a strong nightmarish sequence in a factory, the premise of Lights Out is intriguing and made for a terrifying short film from director David Sandberg. As a feature length film it is bloated and quite dull. Rebecca (Palmer) is an off the rails teen (noted from the metal band posters in her apartment and the fact that she lives above a tattoo parlour), who has to grow up and help her young brother Martin (a strong performance from Gabriel Bateman) battle against an evil entity that’s attached itself to their mother Sophie (Maria Bello). Coming of age in horror has been done to death and whilst the chemistry between Palmer and Bateman is great, it feels like a re-tread of familiar ground.
The evil that the family is facing is genuinely creepy. Looking half Jersey Devil mixed with the Original Slayer from Buffy her gimmick is that she can only be seen in the dark. The physical performance by Alicia Velay-Bailey is great but the turning the lights on and off gimmick where’s thin after the second or third sequence. Whilst the main villain has an interesting back story and the premise of the film is excellent, there’s a lot of missed potential. A large part of the film plays on mental health but it never delves too much into these issues, instead opting for jump scares that you can see coming a mile off. One of the few unnerving moments in the film is where Sophie and Martin are watching a movie and then Sophie says that Diana is going to sit with them and watch. The idea that Sophie isn’t afraid and is dependent on Diana is fascinating and I would have preferred that the story focussed on her journey than the stereotypical teen growing up.
Lights Out also fails to build tension. A truly brilliant horror makes you feel on edge throughout, even if the characters are just sitting together having a nice time, you’re on edge. There’s none of that here. When it becomes dark you know something’s going to happen and the flicking on and off of lights will begin.
Lights Out had a lot of promise to be a gutsy independent and unique horror. Instead it’s a mainstream bore that is already getting the sequel treatment. In the words of Paddy McGuinness – “light’s out, all out”.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★