By: Henry J. Fromage (Three Beers) –
Our shared primal fear of the darkness is so pervasive that any scare (and budget)-conscious horror flick pretty much has to play to it at some point. It’s a ballsy move, indeed, then, to make that your entire film, but Lights Out pretty much pulls it off.
The plot focuses on a single family whose manic depressive Mom, Sophie (Maria Bello), converses with something named Diana that can’t handle the light, but which can move pretty damn quickly in the dark. Twenty-something daughter Rebecca (Teresa Palmer), her possibly too patient and empathetic boyfriend, Bret (Alexander DiPersia), and her young brother, Martin (Gabriel Bateman) must do what they can to free Mom from the clutches of her not so imaginary friend, and remember to keep as much light handy as they can.
Director David Sandberg is expanding his apparently quite freaky short film to feature length and he has precisely zero trouble translating those scares to the big screen.
Nope, nope, nope
Make no mistake, J-horror-looking monster and too-revealing trailer aside, this. shit. will. scare. you. I mean, not my wife, who has the steely demeanor of a Seal Team Six vet, but damn, it scared me. The setup is always the same- characters in a poorly lit location, light flickers and/or goes out, desperate breath-stealing scramble for a light source, then (your) screams. Fuck if Sandberg doesn’t find twenty different fiendishly clever ways to differentiate this, though, and I jumped at every damn one.
As well as he translates the scares, he muffs the narrative backbone of the story. Every actor acquits themselves well, and DiPersia has this Bradley Cooper/Edgar Ramirez from Joy amalgam thing going on that bodes well for his future, but the plot is pretty paint by numbers, bad decision-making boilerplate.
Worst, though, as many have pointed out, is the way Sandberg baldly makes this a mental illness allegory. With that inescapable theme, the ending is… pretty goddamned wrong-headed.
Lights Out isn’t going to win any screenwriting Oscars, but if you’re here for the scares, it’s got those in spades.
Lights Out (2016) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time a light flickers
Take a Drink: every time the goddam lights go out
Take a Drink: every time the goddam lights go out, again (to steel your nerves)
Take a Drink: for each new light source
Do a Shot: when you jump (you’re gonna jump)