Release Date: July 22, 2016
Director: David F. Sandberg
Writer: Eric Heisserer, David F. Sandberg
Cast: Teresa Palmer, Gabriel Bateman, Alexander DiPersia, Billy Burke, Maria Bello, Rolando Boyce, Ava Cantrell, Ariel Dupin, Emily Alyn Lind, Lotta Losten, Amiah Miller, Andi Osho, Elizabeth Pan, Maria Russell, Alicia Vela-Bailey
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 81 minutes
Production Company: Atomic Monster, Grey Matter Productions, New Line Cinema, Warner Bros.
The scariest things imaginable can appear in the dark. That’s what first time feature film director David F. Sandberg tried to take advantage of with Lights Out. Produced by James Wan, David took the simplest concept of horror and created a ninety minute film that may have you think twice about turning the lights off. The trailers seemed interesting enough, but it all comes down to the story. The mystery and the scares are there, along with some adequate characters. While a majority of the film delivers what’s promised in the trailers, the ending became lazy and ran out of common sense and ideas.
Without any backstory to set up anticipation, the plot started to get going quickly. Average people are living average lives and just trying to get through their average day. All audience members can relate to this, which makes the introduction so satisfying. Shortly thereafter, the tone changes, and the film lets you know what you’re in for. The rules of the universe are set well in stone, and you have a basic understanding of the premise. You barely know the characters, but are still attached to them. You’re engaged and finding yourself wanting to do exactly what the characters are doing on screen. It’s so exciting, because within just a few minutes the demonic figure begins taking lives in a way you don’t fully understand initially. Because of this as every frame shifts you’re nervous not knowing what will pop out next.
The way the directing and editing comes together to tie bonded relationships between characters was very insightful and visually pleasing. The panning and zooming in and out of family photos was a great representation on who is related to who and how much they’re important to the overall arc. All characters are very likeable, especially Martin (Gabriel Bateman). He steals the show with his facial expressions alone. You feel sorry for his character, as anyone should, and he makes you feel like he’s part of your family. You just want him to get out alive. His older sister Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) does a fine job, as well, as the main protagonist. She’s not your average typical damsel that needs instructions from a male to get by. She’s the one in charge of her current relationship, while still being a respectful woman trying to save the day.
The mystery of the horrific creature that’s terrorizing the main leads is intriguing. As each minute passes, more revelations of the dark past that is causing such a disaster comes to light. Unfortunately, instead of these investigations and conversations going smoothly, or happening naturally, they’re forced down your throat. Someone might as well have pressed pause on the film, came onscreen, and said, “Ok audience, next we have exposition time,” because that’s exactly how it felt. We did get some of the answers we needed, but the delivery was a bit sour.
Everyone is most likely seeing this film for the horror, and the film delivers just as much as one might need. I felt scared when the lights were out. Some of my own interpretations of what happens in the dark were in the film. As an audience member, I had a basic understanding of how the antagonist worked, but hadn’t fully grasped the whole concept yet. But I felt that reveal came far too quickly. During the 2nd act, all of the mystery vanished, further diminishing the anti-climactic conclusion towards the end. Instead of me being scared and having to defeat the enemy, I just knew I had to defeat the enemy.
The method used to do so was none forgiving as well. The film made you like and understand a certain character, only to rip the rug right from under you. This was a completely unnecessary ending, and it made me feel cheated as a moviegoer. When the plot begins to get rough towards the end, exactly how you would imagine, characters all of a sudden decide not to team up and work together; opting to let their ego’s get in the way and cause more destruction. While overall it’s an entertaining film, the ending could’ve been flushed out more with a better script. Instead it feels like they ran out of time and just randomly picked a reason to bring it all to an end.