Director: David F. Sandberg
Writer: Eric Heisserer
Starring: Teresa Palmer, Gabriel Bateman, Billy Burke, and Maria Bello
Lights Out is the directorial debut from David F. Sandberg, who has gone on to direct the two Shazam films as well as Annabelle: Creation. It is an adaption of the excellent three-minute short film of the same name by Sandberg, that has currently amassed almost seventeen million views on YouTube.
After his dad dies, Martin (Gabriel Bateman) is having trouble sleeping. His mother, Sophie (Maria Bello) is talking to something in the shadows, and Martin feels like the house is haunted. After falling asleep in school Martin is picked up by his half-sister Rebecca (Teresa Palmer), who also experienced strange things while growing up.
The ‘monster’ hiding in the shadows is Diana an angry spirit that wants to keep Sophie to herself. Diana is very visible from the first scene. While you don’t know what she is, you can see her straight away. You’d think that would take away from the terror, but it doesn’t. Right from that creepy opening the film is very unsettling and tense. As it goes on there is a good amount of jump scares, which are overused, but still effective. Diana is a good villain, and one that will make you check the corners of your bedroom before you go to sleep.
There are so many creative ideas that the characters have to find a way to keep the lights on, from wind-up torches to unlocking the car door so the lights flash. It’s really inventive, but at the same time, you know most of us wouldn’t be able to think of them in the same timeframe and would more than likely end up dead in seconds.
The film is let down by some clunky dialogue as well as some underbaked themes. There’s an undercurrent of Sophie dealing with depression, but it never does anything meaningful with this idea, which is a shame, it’s also probably why the film received some criticism when it first came out that it glorified suicide. Which is a shame because it doesn’t, yet after watching it you can definitely see why people would think that. It’s more about sacrifice and doing anything to help the ones you love.
Even though there’s an overreliance on jump scares Lights Out is still a creepy and unsettling film. The ghost of Diana lives in the shadows, but you’re always aware it’s there and it’s often visible. David F. Sandberg does a great job at creating fear. There’s a sequel that’s been in the works since 2016, hopefully it will be bigger and better.
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