Lights Out (2016)

Friday, July 22, 2016

Movie Review Lights Out (2016)

When her little brother, Martin, experiences the same events that once tested her sanity, Rebecca works to unlock the truth behind the terror, which brings her face to face with an entity that has an attachment to their mother, Sophie.

Lights Out (2016)

Lights Out is a horror film based on a video short written and directed by David F. Sandberg. In the film a family is stalked by a ghostly entity seemingly made real and deadly by the deteriorating state of mind of the family's matriarch (Bello). In desperation, the young son, Martin (Bateman) recruits the help of his long absent half-sister in order to simultaneously save their mother from madness and put an end to the specter dubbed Diana.

The film is a compendium of clichés all sprouting out of the haunted house genre complete with jump scares and a bad case of BDS (Bad- Decision Syndrome). What makes Lights Out a cut above some of this year's lesser horror flicks is it's ghost or rather the rules in which it functions and operates. Unlike other specters that creep into the dark recesses turning over candles and books, this little nasty can come out and grab you though only under the cover of shadow and darkness.

Under such restraints (or excess depending on your disposition) the film succeeds in snatching a few choice scares from its audience. Gabriel Bateman does a commendable job as the scared but sincere pre-teen whose nights have been haunted by her mothers "friend". Maria Bello is equally solid performing the thankless, uphill bromide that is the over-broad psychotic who is just barely keeping together. I feel like it's become a sadly common trope to have talented actresses no longer "in their prime" make appearances in horror movies as the plucky haunting victim or the brittle waif turned bloodthirsty doppelganger. One need only go back to the recent The Babadook (2014) to see what I mean.

Teresa Palmer and Alexander DiPersia fair poorly however as the main protagonist and permanently sidelined boyfriend. DiPersia, while proving at various times to be resourceful as a character, can't help but feel like an out-of-place amateur among actual actors. Palmer has the opposite problem; she can act but the story gives her little to do but change the curvature of her brow from one of fright or one of indignation. We get very little in the story to get us into the character's head space. There's animus between mother and daughter but we never really know why; there's a reluctance to closeness but we never know why; there's an Avenge Sevenfold poster in her apartment, but we never know dear God, why!

Yet the million dollar question at the end o the day is, does this film work as a horror film? In other words, does it scare? Yes it does. Sure it's not as intellectually stimulating as The Witch (2015) and sure it's littered with clichés. There are a few indulgences of modern horror that can be irksome: unearned jump scares, a stentorian score and a third act that paints itself in such a corner that it literally writes plot reveals on the wall. Yet Lights Out ultimately works. It slides by on its creativity, its economy and moments that are not just spooky but heart-in-your-chest level scary.

When things go bump in the night and the amount of light is limited at best, your imagination plays tricks on you. Often we perceive the worst thing lurking in the shadows, waiting to wrap its tendrils, claws, or whatever appendage around your body and finish you off. Well a short film project by David Sandberg laid the groundwork for a major motion picture that plays off of that fear. Welcome to another Robbie's movie reviews and today we focus on the latest horror film to grace the theaters entitled Lights out. Lets get started!

The GOOD: • The story • Teresa Palmer • The creepiness

Surprise, surprise, we actually have a horror movie with a plot this weekend. Lights out writers were able to craft a tale that had a little more depth than some of its fellow scare thrillers. One part digging into the past and another part progressing forward, Lights out does a nice job of balancing both sides of the coin during its short ninety minutes. The pace of the story is set nicely for most of the movie, though it does skip on the details sometimes that added the corny edge to it. For once, I wish the movie was a little longer so that we could explore a little more into the past (primarily Rebecca's story). Those details could have added a little more depth and uniqueness to the tale and perhaps robbed the cheesiness we saw. 

Fortunately, the lovely Teresa Palmer's acting enriches the story. She hasn't had the greatest roles, but this movie worked with her. Her edginess, sincerity, and attitude all mixed well to craft a character that was easy to latch onto and root for. Yeah some of the writing was a little corny at times, and her tough girl attitude was cute to see as she took on the spirit. Regardless, she played the mature, older sister very well and carried the movie. Her supporting cast only further supported her talent with Gabriel Bateman and Alexander Dipersia making an excellent pair to bring the tale to life. 

In regards to the scare factor though, Lights Out's strongest aspects is the creepy level. The trailers speak the truth when it says it makes your nightmares come to life. For me the shadows and feeling abandoned in the dark were the biggest thing to freak me out, especially in the realistic environments this movie takes place in. Seeing Diana (the ghoul in this movie) emerge from the shadows in her misshapen form only further sending a chill across my skin. All these factors build an epic suspense and heighten your fear of what lurks in the dark. But…

The BAD • Lackluster Scares • The ending

Despite all the build up and being stuck in the shadows, the actual jump scares were lacking for my friends and me. Most things involved the abrupt start of music and became very predictable in what tactic they would use. Perhaps it was due to Diana not doing much, or maybe they just couldn't keep things fresh enough, but the scares were missing in some sense for me. Therefore, those looking to have themselves frightened to the point of peeing their pants are out of luck. Oh well, the creepiness will linger in your mind longer to tell the truth. 

And despite all the good of the story, there were still some things that needed a little tightening up to get the full effect. As mentioned the pace is a little rushed, the background stories are lacking, and the lines are cornier than a maze in the fall. However, it is the ending that made me sigh in disappointment. After a prolonged, semi-exciting battle against Diana, the ending occurs rather bluntly. Yes it had some emotional fervor behind it, and it will make my more dark hearted audience members reel in delight. I just wish it had more kick behind it instead of the compromise we got. My guess is the fast pace led to the abrupt ending, either that or they couldn't think of anything to finish out the fight in that epic manner (a.k.a Star Wars Episode III). Whatever the reason, the ending wraps things up and could be vague enough to allow for another sequel to grace the screen. 

The Verdict:

Lights out is certainly not the most original ghost story we've received. However, it still has the edge, presentation, and story to put this movie on an upper shelf of horror quality. In terms of scare factor, again the creepiness will leave you afraid to venture into the dark, but its not going to leave your hair white anytime soon. However, in terms of intriguing tale it definitely gets points in this category for me. Is it worth a trip to the theater? In my opinion…not really, and your money would be better spent on say Star Trek this weekend. 
Lights Out (2016)

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