film reel image

film reel image

Monday, August 15, 2016

Lights Out 2016 * * * Stars

Lights OutDirector: David F. Sandberg
Year: 2016
Rated PG-13
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Teresa Palmer, Alexander DiPersia, Maria Bello

While attending a screening for 2016's Lights Out (my latest review), it felt like I was watching a student horror film or should I say, one of the greatest student horror films ever made. With a tiny budget of $5 million, only a handful of characters, and some efficacious jump scares (despite the fact that they were a bit familiar), "Lights" director David F. Sandberg makes this cinematic debut stylish and rather unsettling. He makes it his own.

For what's it worth, Lights Out is old school, nuts and buts moviemaking. Its eerie, first 45 minutes reminded me of the fright fandom of yesteryear. Containing a simple concept in which a disturbing, Medusa-like apparition only appears in darkness, "Lights" is for the most part, effective until its novelty loses steam in the final, underwhelming act. This nifty little scare-fest is invariably small scale, a one-trick pony, a ghostly canard. I'm going to recommend it and also praise the raw performance of Maria Bello (a Chicago Film Critics Award winner) which elevates the acting cred of "Lights" to an even higher level.

Containing a twist ending I didn't see coming (it all made sense though) and produced by Saw man James Wan, Lights Out introduces us to a new breed of spectral villainy named Diana (she's played by Alicia Vela-Bailey). Diana is a back from the dead mental patient, a unpleasant imaginary friend, and when the lights are off and it's nighttime, she kills people by throwing them around like a sack of potatoes. Throughout the film's short running time (an hour and twenty-one minutes with credits), Diana terrorizes a small family (Maria Bello as depressed mother Sophie, Teresa Palmer as her daughter Rebecca, and Gabriel Bateman as her son Martin) until they can find a way to stop her.

Director Sandberg taking cues from 2013's The Conjuring, plays with his audience by not letting them know when to flinch in their seats or not. My favorite scene overall (spoiler), is when Diana takes out two L.A. cops with loud gunfire blazing. It's something else. Also, I liked the way the actors/actresses reacted with fear in "Lights". I don't wholly agree but most troupers say reacting is even harder than actual acting.

Now if I had to pick one flaw in Lights Out, it would be the notion that "dirty" Diana can turn any house light off with her supernatural powers but can't blow out a candle or suck the life out of batteries in a flashlight. Huh? I expected more from a ghoul who speaks like she's smoked four packs of Lucky Strikes, moves from one dark room to another with lightning speed, and hasn't had a manicure in decades. Ha-ha. Anyway, "Lights" isn't the scariest movie ever made but if you're game, it may do for incandescent lighting what Jaws did for not wanting to go in the water. I wasn't entirely affected after I left the theater but as a ten-year old, it would've given me massive nightmares. Rating: 3 stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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