Dinner with your family. A hug from a stranger. Katy Perry songs. A stick of Fruit Stripe gum.
What do they all have in common? They’re all acceptable for a short amount of time. Lights Out started as a short film directed by David F. Sandberg, and it was an outstanding one. Coming in at just under three minutes, the simple premise managed to find a large audience and it ended up going viral. The buzz surrounding the short film got the attention of some powerful producers in Hollywood, and now three years later Sandberg is making his major directorial debut with an extended version of the short.
Did it deliver? Or will you leave the theater wanting to suffocate yourself with that plastic bag Katy Perry is always singing about?
The film starts out with a satisfying nod to the actress (Lotta Losten) who starred in the original short film. Just like in the short, we see her working that light switch. Turn the light off, the creature appears. Turn the light on, and the creature disappears. Sounds simple enough, right? Just keep the lights on and you’ll never have to worry about getting mauled by Diana.
Yeah, Diana. The creature has a name, and it (she?) also has a surprisingly deep backstory. Most movie monsters are monsters because, well, the movie needs a monster. It’s like when you order a shake from a fast food restaurant and they dump a pound of whipped cream on top. Ask why they did it, and they’ll say, “I dunno…shakes need whipped cream,” and you accept that answer because no one wants to be that ungrateful customer complaining about receiving extra sweets for free.
Diana is more than just whipped cream though. She’s a friend. A childhood friend of Sophie (Maria Bello), the disturbed mother of Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) and Martin (Gabriel Bateman). As the events play out, we learn that Sophie and Diana were both treated at the same mental hospital when they were children. Diana had some rare skin disorder that made her sensitive to light. Any exposure to it would cause extreme pain and disfigurement. Doctors at the hospital tried to fix the condition by basically treating her like a human Hot Pocket and blowing her up in a microwave-like setting.
Ever since then, Diana has been haunting Sophie and killing her husbands, but she never touched Martin and Rebecca because Sophie wouldn’t allow it. That all changes when Rebecca and Martin attempt to save their mom by trying to force her to take her medications to get her back to a healthier state of mind. A mind strong enough to fight off Diana.
As you might expect, things don’t go as planned. The same style of scares are repeated throughout the movie, so you shouldn’t go in expecting to jump out of your seat. There are several chill-inducing moments though, and they are mixed with some genuinely funny moments. There are at least two scenes in the film that had the entire theater laughing as if they were watching a comedy. And just to be clear here, they weren’t laughing AT the movie.
They were laughing with it.
It wasn’t all good though. Lights Out is sprinkled with cliches, the story felt a little rushed at times, and while Rebecca’s boyfriend Bret (Alexander DiPersia) provided most of the laughs, his constant need for reassurance during the worst times got a bit tiring.
Overall, it’s a decent horror flick with a powerful ending, and you won’t need a plastic bag after you leave the theater. But you’ll probably want to leave the light on for a few nights. You know, just in case Diana is real.
(4/7 on the Gary Busey rating system, which refuses to end at 5 like normal rating systems)