Saturday, July 25, 2020

Movie Reviews: Lights Out

Lights Out
directed by David F. Sandberg
This 2016 movie is one that showed that horror films can be simultaneously inventive and traditional. It was the director's debut. Lights Out shares its title with the famous old time radio show. 

Although it doesn't appear to take inspiration from the H.P. Lovecraft story, "The Haunter of The Dark" it still reminds me of the monster of that story, something that only appears when it's dark.

Lights Out lacks excessive blood and gore, gratuitous toplessness, or characters who do incredibly stupid things (well with a few exceptions) to serve the story. Lights Out goes back to the basics. There are many jump scares and what was that bump in the night shivers, but these are successful in this movie. Sometimes keeping stuff simple really does work best.

The film has a few information dumps but fortunately I didn't think those ruined the story. Unsurprisingly darkness plays a significant role in the movie. You could make the case that this film's title refers to darkness which is the absence of light and the metaphorical darkness which is what we experience with familial or romantic loss and depression. Here one darkness leads to the other. And both seem to be where evil thrives.

The movie's intro was like the intro to a lot of older Supernatural episodes in which the monster of the week kills someone or takes over their body. The Winchester brothers then have to figure out what happened and how to beat the bad guy. Well this movie doesn't have the Winchester brothers. 

Instead we are introduced to Rebecca (Teresa Palmer), a young woman who is not ready to admit that she loves her attentive devoted boyfriend Bret (Alexander DiPersia). Bret wants to live together and maybe even get married. 

Rebecca doesn't want to commit yet, likely because of her unresolved familial issues. These include a vanished father and a mother Sophie (Maria Bello) who has serious psychological challenges. Sophie rarely leaves her room. Sophie talks to people who aren't there.

Speaking of Sophie the school system can't reach her. School authorities call the only other adult relative, Rebecca. Sophie's son and Rebecca's half-brother Martin (Gabriel Bateman) is falling asleep in class because he's too scared to go asleep at night. Martin's problems awaken Rebecca's unpleasant repressed memories. Martin is going thru some some of the same things Rebecca experienced as a child. 

Over Sophie's objections and against the relevant laws Rebecca takes Martin to live with her. But some strange things occur in Rebecca's apartment that night, things that Rebecca can't easily dismiss as figments of her imagination. Something is there that should not be.

As I wrote, this movie keeps things very simple. Sandberg uses his primary effect judiciously and effectively. This movie can give real scares when watched at night as it should be. This was produced by James Wan, who also did the similarly frightening The Conjuring

A minimalist approach to frights and scares can be so much more effective than Grand Guignol, though obviously that has its place as well. The characters all felt real because they all made mistakes. They didn't have some handy dandy priest or librarian to explain everything to them. This was rated PG-13. 
blog comments powered by Disqus