Not since the first Insidious has a movie been as genuinely terrifying as Lights Out. The film will scare you and probably make you think twice before turning off your nightstand lamp at night.
I compare Lights Out to Insidious because the latter was the first of a short list of films to bring back some of the traditional elements of horror movies, update them and make it all work. That was 2010, and as a horror genre lover, I can count on one hand (maybe) the movies that have lived up to Insidious’ success. Lights Out surely does.
It has all the elements a horror film should possess, but it takes it a step further to include a major dose of heart with a healthy taste of reality. It starts off with a bang, which is refreshing. Who really wants to wait 20 minutes in to start caring? This is one of the things it does right. Within the first five minutes of the film, that haunting image of a creature far creepier than it should be, completely takes your breath away. The next 90 minutes are full of screams, jumps, gasps and an unimaginable ending that you know in your heart was the only way to put a stop to the terror.
I will admit that I did not have high hopes for this one. Just based on the pure nature of the trailer, I lumped it in the category of other horror films just trying to recoup the costs it took to make it (I will not name any titles). But I learned early on while watching that Lights Out is a bonafide suspense-building motion picture that takes you on a satisfying thrill ride.
Teresa Palmer stars as Rebecca, a young woman with a fear of commitment that stems from her father abandoning her family when she was 10-years-old. That incident set the tone of her adulthood. Coupled with the fact that her mother Sophie, played by Maria Bello, has serious mental issues, she is a loner with a bit of an attitude and a lot of fight. She joins forces with her boyfriend, Bret (Alexander DiPersia) and little brother Martin (Gabriel Bateman) to defeat the thing that has plagued their mother for decades.
Lights Out is just as much a sociological thriller as it is horror too. In the role of Sophie, Bello captures what it means to cope with a mental condition that affects your quality of life. The movie is smart in that way. As it explores the ups and downs mental diseases, it lays the foundation for the film. It is her struggle with a disease that she has dealt with all of her life that serves as the catalyst for everything that takes place.
Let me give a warning of sorts. I can see how people who deal with mental issues or who have experienced the challenges of loving someone with mental issues might wince at the thought of such a debilitating circumstance playing a significant role in a horror film. However, I think that it is approached tastefully. Along with that, the movie delves into how those who support people with these kinds of issues deal with it on a daily basis. It examines how some put their all into finding solutions while others handle their situations by choosing to stay away.
Along with the plot and storyline, as far as acting goes, Bateman excels in his role as Martin. He’s incredibly believable as the scared, helpless victim left in the care of his sick mother after, Spoiler alert, his father is killed at the beginning of the film by the supernatural being named Diana. He is the reason Rebecca faces her mother after leaving years before and because of him, she ultimately finds out the truth about aspects of her life she so desperately needed to know.
Lights Out is just an all around good film and one that I don’t think you will be disappointed in watching. If you gravitate toward horror and like to jump and watch through your fingers as you cover your eyes (me), then see it. I give it 4 our 5 stars.
Film Review: ‘Lights Out’
Reviewed at Los Angeles Film Festival, June 8, 2016. MPAA rating: PG-13. Running time: 80 MIN.
PRODUCTION: A Warner Bros. Pictures release of a New Line Cinema presentation in association with RatPac-Dune Entertainment of a Grey Matter/Atomic Monster production. Produced by James Wan, Lawrence Grey, Eric Heisserer. Executive producers, Walter Hamada, Dave Neustadter, Richard Brener, Steven Mnuchin, Michael Clear, Jack Murray, Ben Everard.
CREW: Directed by David F. Sandberg. Screenplay, Eric Heisserer, based on the short film by Sandberg. Camera (color), Marc Spicer; editors, Kirk Morri, Michel Aller; music, Benjamin Wallfisch; production designer, Jennifer Spence; costume designer, Kristin M. Burke; art director, Shannon Kemp; sound, Robert Janiger; supervising sound editor, Bill R. Dean; re-recording mixers, Anna Behlmer, Mark Patterson; visual effects, Aaron Sims Company; assistant director, Cory Johnson; casting, Rich Delia, Angela Demo.
WITH: Teresa Palmer, Gabriel Bateman, Alexander DiPersia, Maria Bello, Billy Burke, Alicia Vela-Bailey, Lotta Losten.