Lights Out (2016) Review
Adapted from his 2013 short film of the same name, Lights Out is Writer/Director David F. Sandberg’s feature length debut after the huge online popularity of the short caught Warner Bros and producer James Wan’s eyes.
The story follows Rebecca and her brother Martin who, after the death of their father, must uncover and battle the terror of an entity that has attached itself to their grieving ill mother and can only be seen when the lights are out.
After experiencing the terror of the two minute forty-two second short film from 2013 where our monster can only be seen in the dark, it is clear to see why this unique horror mechanic was selected by a major studio to turn into a feature length film. At its core, Lights Out is a shining light in this dim era of Horror because of its use of psychological horror mixed with real life fear of the dark and mental conditioning all flavoured with a paranormal element to create a tense and creepy concoction.
A lot of similarities to 2015’s indie hit It Follows are clear to see for any horror fan as that films decision to play upon a basic natural human fear was met with a huge successful effect. Other comparisons can be linked to the hugely popular The Babadook from 2014 when talking about the possibility of our antagonist being a physical interpretation of mental illness mixed with grievance.
We’ve all been afraid of the dark during at least one part of our lives and Lights Out looks to reinvigorate that fear to devastating effect. The brilliant use of shadow and darkness always leaves the audience squinting into the background of every shot wondering just if its dark enough for our entity (named Diana) to be able to occupy that space in order to gain a physical presence.
As with any horror film, music and sound design is a vital key in creating an incredibly tense and uneasy atmosphere for the audience to placed within to keep them on the edge of their seats. Lights Out cleverly decides to opt for minimalist use of music when it matters allowing the natural sound of creaking floorboards, scratching sounds or the howling wind to take the forefront to engulf the audience in a more realistic scenario.
The creature Diana is terrifyingly realised not just by the fact that she is only seen in the dark or by her shadowy disfigured form but the crunching & sticky sounds that echo from her as she rises from a sitting position and her deafening screams that are let out as she prepares to attack. All of these aspect lead to a terrifying creature that, even though we sadly told early on how to combat, still possess an incredibly dangerous presence that could be around any corner or in any cupboard.
As for our protagonists and their plot, Lights Out never really delivers anything truly special but does enough to stray from the modern tropes of this era of horror of relying on a barrage of jump scares which is a welcome surprise. Characters who, in any other horror film, would easily be “cannon fodder” are given, if only a slight bit, some sort of character arc which makes their inclusion in the film more verified than previously thought. Our lead characters Rebecca (Teresa Palmer), Martin (Gabriel Bateman) and Sophie (Maria Bello) all give solid performances that will by no means win awards but add to the horror with their portrayals of fear in the most terrifying scenes.
Director David F. Sandberg has done what many others have failed in the past by managing to take a short film and add enough logical context and story in order to make a feature length film that never outstayed its welcome and kept myself and the rest of the audience captivated, always searching the background for just a hint of the horrifying presence that was our antagonist Diana.
With a sequel already greenlit by Warner Brothers, it will be interesting as now a fan of this original concept to see what Sandberg can do next with this unique and well executed intellectual property in the future.