Turn off the Lights

Lights Out Review

"First time director David F. Sandberg's high concept horror film has way more to offer than just jump scares."

David F. Sandberg’s 2013 short film Lights Out made a huge impact using not only the brilliance of its execution, but also in the beauty of its simplicity. A woman is alone in her apartment and when the lights turn out, a ghost like figure appears and when the lights are off the figure disappears.

The short film from the first time Swedish director received such an overwhelmingly positive response that it not only received studio backing, but also the support of modern day horror master James Wan. The concept still works well in feature length form, and the film contains a surprisingly touching back story that helps further the film’s plot rather smoothly.
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As shown in the trailer, the cold open of the film contains a bigger budget version of the short film, this time in an abandoned warehouse, and the creature waging an attack on a man named Paul (Billy Burke), it is unclear exactly why the creature decided to attack him and he is unsuccessful in trying to escape.

The remainder of the film revolves around Paul’s survivors, his young son Martin (Gabriel Bateman), his severely depressed wife Sophie (Maria Bello), and his rebellious step-daughter Rebecca (Teresa Palmer). In the first scene, Martin is sent home from school because he cannot stay away in class. After not being able to reach his mother, Martin relents and tells the school to contact his estranged sister Rebecca. Rebecca arrives and after doing some probing, Martin lets her know that his mother keeps talking to herself and he cannot sleep because of the strange noises that only seem to take place when the lights go out before bed. This immediately triggers similar memories for Rebecca, who lets Martin know that Sophie’s peculiar behavior caused her to leave home and not return. After a visit from Child Protective Services determines that Martin must be returned home to his mother, Rebecca and her boyfriend Bret (Alexander DiPersia) spring into action in order to find out what is really going on in her childhood home.

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The best description for Lights Out is its a solid film. Not a solid horror film, but a solid film period. The feature is not as scary as the short film, mainly because the monster actually has a reason for being there. It does not just appear on screen every time there’s no light. There is a link between the creature and human suffering that becomes the theme of the film, rather than just some black figure that goes bump in the night. The performances from every actor involved is solid. Most of Lights Out takes place in one or two locations, and Sandberg makes the most of this space. You forget that most of this movie takes place in about two places. The characters were not horror cliches. They were portrayed as a family that has a lot of issues, that were doing their best to work on them for the sake of helping young Martin.

One problem with this movie is it’s a little too short. Its between 80-90 minutes, and I would have like to have seen just a little more of Maria Bello’s character. Although I felt the ending was great, seeing her on screen for about 5-10 minutes longer could given just a tad more sympathy for her. Another problem that I had without giving any spoilers, some of the plot elements were very similar to the 2014’s Australian horror film The Babadook.

Lights Out is enjoyable film. The performances are good, the ending is really satisfying, and I would honestly be interested in seeing what would happen in a sequel.

Rating
7.5
Pros
  • Good Performances
  • Solid Plot
Cons
  • Too short
  • Plot Elements similar to the 2014 horror film The Babadook

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