Director: David F. Sandberg
Writer: Eric Heisserer
Based on: Sandberg’s short film
Cast: Teresa Palmer, Gabriel Bateman, Alexander DiPersia, Maria Bello, Billy Burke, Alicia Vela-Bailey, Andi Osho, Lotta Losten
Seen on: 22.8.2016
After the violent death of his father (Billy Burke), Martin (Gabriel Bateman) is left alone with his mother Sophie (Maria Bello). But Sophie isn’t doing too well and seems to believe that there is somebody in the house with them. When Martin falls asleep in school again, they call his sister Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) who thought that she left her mother behind after a problematic childhood. But when she realizes that Martin is experiencing the same issues she had, she knows she has to step in.
The short film this is based on was creepy as fuck, but it was also build on a single scare, making me wonder how well they’d be able to stretch it into an entire feature film. The answer is that they manage pretty damn well by focusing on what is too often ignored in horror at the moment: the characters.
Lights Out operates as a family drama in the horror genre. It’s not always subtle, but definitely a sensitive look at a family in crisis and every once in a while it scares the crap out of you. Rebecca has to answer the question how much she still wants to be a part of her family and has to face the fact that in her attempt to save her own existence, by turning her back on her family, she left her brother behind – and maybe he really would have needed her.
With that set-up, the big evil doubles as a personification of mental illness. Here, the metaphor works very well sometimes, and sometimes it doesn’t work at all. If they had really wanted to make this a clear point, they would have had to polish it a lot more, but I find it even more intriguing particularly because it doesn’t work all the time.
What I did not find intriguing or particularly inspiring was the backstory of said big evil. It just didn’t make that much sense to me and it got its ingredients from way too many stereotypes to remain all that interesting. But hey, at least they did try to explain it. And they used the concept very effectively, finding the right spot and mood for their scares.
Above all, though, it’s the characters that make the film work – if I hadn’t cared for Rebecca, Martin or Rebecca’s boyfriend Bret (Alexander DiPersia) [as an added bonus, even Lotta Losten got to return, though probably as a different person], the film could have never been as enjoyable as it is. But I didn’t want anyone to get hurt here, I was firmly in their corner, making Lights Out simply well-made horror.