August 9, 2016

Movie Review: Lights Out

I don’t remember how long ago it was, a year, maybe two (three?), I don’t think it’s been that long, but I am too lazy to check; anyway, there was a short that made the rounds on social media that was an effectively creepy film that only lasted a couple of minutes. Well, that short caught the attention of Hollywood and it was green lit to be turned into a full length feature film. That movie bears the same name as the short, Lights Out, and while not perfect, proves to be a highly effective movie. Sure, it feels like a stretched out short at times and there is precious little exposition, but it still manages to unsettle and delivers a nice emotional punch at the end.

The film was directed by David F. Sandberg, who has made a number of shorts over the past few years before making this his feature debut. While he did write the short, the feature screenplay was handled by Eric Heisserer, who has also been involved with films such as The Thing prequel, the A Nightmare on Elm Street remake, and Final Destination 5. The final result is a perfectly decent mainstream horror film that does not stray too far from the expectations but still manages to get under the skin.

Lights Out seizes on everyone’s innate fear of the dark and is yet another ghost story. The hook here is that so long as there is a light source, you cannot be harmed by said ghost. The question, of course, is where did this thing come from, what does it want, and how can it be stopped? Of course, none of this is really explained all that well and you are left with a lot of questions as the credits roll, so it may be a good idea not to worry about explanations and just go along with the ride.

The ghostly presence seems to have attached itself to a certain family, a family seems to have gone through a lot of strife. Whatever the origins may be, the presence seems to be targeting the family members and is attempting to eliminate them one by one. Frankly, for a good portion of the movie (which is not that long, barely passing the 80 minute mark) I did not really care about the origins or any of the questions i would walk away with. I was more interested in the light thing, watching as they tried to find light sources and learning that the light was the defense.

The ghost stuff itself did not feel very different from what we have seen in countless other ghostly tales. What made this movie work, for me, is the haunted house feel of the light effect. It is certainly built on manufactured jump scares, so if you are not fond of them, you probably won’t like this movie.

As we get closer to the climax, we do learn more of a connection between a couple of the characters. This, while not really explained, gives some very good emotional pull and gives a nice little punch to the gut as the climax hits. I will be honest and say it caught me off guard and worked well with the rest of the story with the broken family.

Lights Out is overall very simple. Too simple to be really great, perhaps a little hamstrung by the PG-13 rating to go where it would have liked, but it still manages some interesting elements with the light and the ghostly connection. It is not necessarily one to go on the must see list, but should you come across it, it is certainly worth spending some time with. I will also add that it benefits greatly from having someone like Maria Bello in the cast, she adds a lot to the film.


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