Lights Out (David F. Sandberg, 2016)
When this started getting buzz at one point last year, I checked YouTube for the original short, and indeed, there it was. I absolutely adored it, and got excited for this immediately. I’m pretty fond of the whole “awesome short horror film gets a feature length treatment” thing, and I am a huge fan of a couple of them (Dumplings and Grace both impressed me far more than I was expecting), so I went into Lights Out with pretty high expectations. And while it wasn’t a surprise, I was quite happy with the result.
Plot: Sophie (Payback‘s Maria Bello), after the horrifying death of her husband in the opening sequence, lives alone with her son Martin (Annabelle‘s Gabriel Bateman). Well, perhaps “alone” isn’t quite the right word, as the house is haunted by a ghost Sophie calls Diana (Avatar‘s Alicia Vela-Bailey). Sophie is fiercely protective of the ghost, but Martin’s not so fond of it, and in desperation, reaches out to his estranged sister Rebecca (Warm Bodies‘ Teresa Palmer). Together with her maybe-boyfriend-and-maybe-not Bret (I Am Legend‘s Alexander DiPersia), Rebecca tries to help Martin banish his nightmares…until she sees Diana for herself.
The movie isn’t without its shortcomings; there are characters who simply disappear early on in the film (I
wanted to know what happened to Esther, from the opening sequence; she was played by Lotta Losten, returning from the original short), and some characters make incredibly stupid decisions (Rebecca going through her mother’s house without turning on a single light the day after she sees Diana for the first time)–though none of those stupid decisions is integral to the plot, which makes me look on them a bit more kindly here than in some other movies that shall remain nameless. But these are relatively small things within an otherwise pretty impressive big picture. The thing I’m always concerned with when I go to a movie that’s been extended—especially from a less-than-three-minute short—is the pacing. I think Sandberg and screenwriter Eric Heisserer (Hours) recognized the danger and beat that pace thing into the ground while working on this script. The effort shows. There’s also a great deal of wit and charm there, if not much in the way of subtlety, and I had a blast with it. The camerawork from Marc Spicer (Furious 7) was not nearly as impressive as that in The Conjuring 2, which I saw the same day, but was serviceable nonetheless, and Spicer has such a good eye for chiaroscuro that I wonder if he studied at the feet of David Fincher. What really got me is the acting; somehow these folks assembled a cast that, aside from Bello, have all worked in movies that I’ve kind of wanted to see over the past decade or so but never actually got round to, so to me they were all marvelously fresh faces, and they all did very very good jobs with what they were given. I wouldn’t call Lights Out timeless cinema by any means, but if you’re looking for a few solid jumps placed inside a very solid film, this should be right up your alley. *** ½
Well, YEAH trailer!