LIGHTS OUT (2016)
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Lights Out is based on the same name spooky 2013 short film by it’s director David F. Sandberg, expanded to feature film length by writer and producer Eric Heisserer. It tells the story of a women named Sophie (Maria Bello) who has a history of emotional problems that has her now talking to what her daughter, Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) and son Martin (Gabriel Bateman) first think is an imaginary person. Soon, though, a malevolent entity starts to appear with harmful intent towards both Paul and Rebbeca. As they investigate this malicious presence, they find that “Diana” was once quite real and despite having a skin condition that made her allergic to sunlight, she had a reputation for being pure evil and was feared by those around her. She was also institutionalized as a girl at the same time as their mother and Sophie was her only friend till she died. Has Diana returned from the grave to bring grievous harm to anyone who stands between her and reuniting with Sophie, including Sophie’s own children?
While far from a masterpiece, Sandberg actually delivers a fairly effective and spooky little movie with some legitimately creepy sequences beyond the plethora of jump scares. For the most part he gives Diana (Alicia Vela-Bailey) a presence of malice and this helps make her a threat whenever the lights go out…and they often do. As she was allergic to the sun in life, Diana now cannot stand light, which gives Sandberg many opportunities to keep us looking nervously in dark corners and being wary when power outages occur or flashlights grow dim. And for the most part, he has a good time with it. There are a few silly moments too and there are far more jump scares than outright chills, but it’s entertaining enough and works more than it doesn’t. The PG-13 rating keeps things from getting too gruesome, but there is some violence and the film has an intense last act to keep us in our seats. Sandberg shows he might have some potential and we’ll have to wait to see if he can scare us beyond his original short concept and it’s feature film expansion.
The cast also helps make this work by presenting very likable characters. Palmer, already a prolifically working actress at 30, is a strong-willed and very endearing heroine. Rebecca comes across as a bit selfish at first, but her feelings toward her family come though as she takes on this vicious specter to save her mother and little brother. Gabriel Bateman is very likable as the young Paul. He is a brave little boy who loves and sticks by his mom despite her illness and is ready to fight along with his big sister. Maria Bello is sympathetic as the mentally troubled mother, Sophie. She knows she isn’t well and that she is under Diana’s influence and Bello portrays her conflict and emotional pain well. Rounding out is Alexander DiPersia as Rebecca’s boyfriend, Bret, who is caught in the middle of the paranormal drama. Another likable edition to the cast of characters. The film’s spooky opening scene features an appearance by Lotta Losten, who was the star of Sandberg’s original Light’s Out short. (Which is posted below the trailer.)
As said, this is not a great film by any stretch, but is an effective and sometimes spooky little flick that knows how to manipulate us with it’s plot elements. It is a bit formula, but director Sandberg shows some potential and keeps us creeped out enough to forgive him when he falls back on familiar tropes and jump scares. A good cast helps him along and makes this a fun flick for a night on the couch…with the lights out, of course.
3 light switches.
BONUS VIDEO: Here is both the trailer and the original short on which the film is based…