Lights Out (2016)
Directed by David F. Sandberg
The horror genre has been inundated with all manner of supernatural movies for the past 10 years. Truth be told, it’s easy to get fatigued. Then it happens… a film comes along that captures the magic. The audience members you’re sitting with in the dark begin nervously laughing and then screaming their heads off. People are jumping… whimpering… clinging to one another. Seeing a good horror movie in a theater is a communal experience like no other. On that front alone Lights Out delivers in spades.
Masterfully directed by David F. Sandberg and based on his own short film of the same name, Lights Out tells the tale of two would-be sisters, Sophie and Diana. As youths they were inseparable but was that by choice or was it because of… something else? Fast forward many years, and Sophie (Bello) has two kids and a life of her own. The past, though? That’s something that doesn’t stay buried, and before you know it, Diana is back to wreak more than just a little havoc on Sophie’s family.
In a nutshell that’s a spoiler-free version of the story, but believe me when I say there are many more layers to it. As each one of those layers is pulled back, the film gets scarier and scarier. Clocking in at a robust and brimming with frights 81 minutes, Lights Out relies on many of the usual “stay in the light” tropes developed in films like Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark and even Darkness Falls, but it handles them in the smartest of ways that never breaks its own rules, and that, my fellow fiends, is part of what makes it feel so very refreshing and fun.
The main cast, consisting of Teresa Palmer as Sophie’s daughter, Rebecca; Gabriel Bateman as her little, thoroughly tormented brother, Martin; and the scene-stealing Alexander DiPersia as Rebecca’s boyfriend, Bret, all play it smart for nearly the whole way through; and the screenplay by Eric Heisserer based on Sandberg’s original story helps to create characters that you actually care about and relate to while never being heavy-handed. Points are made… there’s no time for dwelling… things move at a really brisk pace.
As for the film’s villain, Diana, let me tell you she’s a damned good reason to be afraid of the dark. In the film we learn just enough about her to make her truly scary. Nothing is over-explained, and all the movie’s scares are incredibly organic as a result. Simply put… you don’t want her anywhere near you. Like ever. Like ever times 10.
With Lights Out Sandberg knows exactly what kind of movie he wants to make and knocks it straight out of the park. This is the epitome of the popcorn horror flick, filled with enough scares to keep the audience screaming and enough fun to keep them howling in between shrieks of terror.
Lights Out is an experience that reminds you why you love horror movies. One of the finest examples this year of how good they can be. And one that will have you walking around your home long afterward identifying the locations of light switches and candles. It’s a masterclass in fast, furious frights that will keep your heart racing and knuckles thoroughly whitened from gripping your chair. See this one in the theater and with a crowd.