Lights Out (2016)
Director – David F. Sandberg
Writers – Eric Heisserer
Starring – Teresa Palmer, Gabriel Bateman, Maria Bello
Rating – PG-13
Genre – Horror, Thriller
Rotten Tomatoes – 95%
Isn’t that terrifying? Only two-and-a-half minutes long and it still gives me the chills to watch it. I love how simple it is; you can definitely tell that David F. Sandberg wanted to toy with lighting and play upon our everyday objects (like the door knob to the bedroom) to see how scary he could make them. It plays very well in such a short film. But, what if we were to stretch it into a brisk 80 minute full-length feature? We find that the short film’s creativity does not have longevity.
The upcoming paranormal thriller of the same name takes many of the simple scares from the short film and plays with them over the course of the film; lighting tricks, making the mundane suddenly unsafe, and of course preying on our base fear of the dark. However, these elements, unique to the short production, do not produce the same grim subtlety in a feature-length. After about twenty minutes our vengeful spirit (Diana) is no longer eerie and her long crackly joints feel all too familiar to the Wan family of horror. By the end of the film Diana’s appearances amount to nothing more than the cheap jump scares that we are also well acquainted with.
The real issue at the root of the film is that they don’t make’em like they used to. Why do you remember The Shining? Jack Torrance. Psycho? Norman Bates. A Nightmare on Elm Street? Freddy Krueger. Now, granted, Sandberg isn’t yet in the ballpark of Kubrick, Hitchcock, and Craven, but the point remains that a horror movie’s cornerstone is it’s villainous entity and our vitamin-D challenged Diana simply doesn’t cut the cake. It appears that her motivation to torture the living and her very existence as a ghost is so thin and unfounded that we feel the lethargy this script was constructed with:
“What’s her backstory? Mental institutions are scary right?” It honestly feels like something pulled from the nosleep subReddit.
The characters are, regrettably, about as deep as a puddle and the performances match part. I’m thankful that Teresa Palmer has been pulling pages from the Kristen Stewart acting handbook. Maria Bello had to be in for a money grab, and her part feels like a drive-by. The young Gabriel Batman lost me about the 3rd time I heard him scream (for the child-actor standard return to The Shining). Surprisingly, Alexander DiPersia brings an authenticity to his role as the caring boyfriend and his performance is the only one that doesn’t feel forced, which, makes the character refreshing considering the surroundings.
I was asked, “Will you see it again?” Yeah, there are some good scares and creepy moments and the overall tone will be fun for the Halloween season. Unfortunately, the film is the result of a YouTube sensation that has overreached its potential; our elusive and vengeful Diana is far from achieving icon status and she is likely cursed to fade into the shadows.
Author: Blake Burrough
499 rating – 5.9 / 10