Lights Out (2016)

Directed by David F Sandberg

Written by Eric Heisserer

Produced by James Wan, Eric Heisserer

Starring Teresa Palmer, Maria Bello, Alexander DiPersia, Gabriel Bateman & Alicia Vela-Bailey

In 2013, filmmaker David F Sandberg submitted a short, haunting, 3 minute film to a competition. The brief film consists solely of Sandberg’s wife being stalked in her hallway and bedroom by a menacing spectre with a final frame that might be one of the most unsettling images ever. It was only expected that Hollywood would come calling and under the tutelage of current genre king James Wan (Saw, The Conjuring, Dead Silence) this solid little haunter is the result.

Sandberg and veteran horror screenplay specialist Eric Heisserer extend the dialogue-less short film into a back story involving an estranged family, a troubled mother and a parasitic angry spirit with a slightly gimmicky aversion to light. Actually, only certain kinds of light, a factor that is only slightly expanded upon. Here in lies some of my troubles with this film. It’s been hailed as a remarkable film and to an extent this is true, at least visually. But I never really bought the ghostly character of Diana as a real threat. She’s creepy yes, but also rather clichéd and her final design (what we see of it) is a far cry from the nightmare fuel presented in the short. Her relationship with Maria Bello’s character is arguably the most interesting aspect of the story but this too is barely touched upon or explored. Overall, it’s a bit lightly written.

But then, based on core concept alone (a rather “Darkness Falls” esque reliance on our protagonists keeping a light source at all costs) it’s obvious that this film is more visually based. Alicia Vela Bailey does a fine, fine job of conveying  a feral and primal aspect to Diana and Sandberg does build legitimate suspense with different set pieces involving various forms of lighting. So on the visual aspect it’s a triumph. It just overall feels like it wasn’t built for a full length film (let alone an inevitable franchise based on the box office success).

Lights Out is the perfect “beginner’s horror”. It’s the type of film I would show to anyone who doesn’t traditionally enjoy horror. It’s creepy and eerie yet not enough to frighten away rookies and it’s interesting enough to hold the jaded veteran. Tame yet not too tame, scary yet not too scary. Lights Out is the perfect middle ground. On that note, it’s a worthwhile watch if you want to gather some friends and watch the horror rookies squeal in fear at each of Diana’s appearances. Outside of this, it’s a bit mediocre yet not without potential.

A rock solid 3/5 Unreliable Flashlights

 

Splatter Factor: 1.5/5  (highlight to read to avoid spoilers)   <<>>> It’s PG-13 Horror which means not much to whet the appetite of my fellow gore hounds. Witness herein a decent gash wound effect, some nasty burns and a few quick ocular based effects. Not totally without red, but you’ll have to look fast. <<>>>

The Collective Speaks:

We can appreciate what Miss Diana is attempting to accomplish here. We ourselves are oft to dwell in the shadows and abhor the light. Her primal fury is a delight to our many eyes although we too believe she should spend less time attempting to tell her story and more time stalking lone Swedish actresses for a few minutes at a time.

We present to you the lovely Miss Diana doing what she does best: cloaked in anonymity and whispering sweet goodnights in the darkness.

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