The importance of changing light bulbs. So this is about young woman (Teresa Palmer), stepping into the picture when her little brother (Gabriel Bateman) starts to complain about their mother (Maria Bello) going crazy. They’re all on edge because they can’t sleep, which is all due to the fact that this entity known as Diana who pops up whenever the lights go out. This is based on a three minute short that the same director released three years ago. You have probably seen it already, or at least some sort of parody of it: a woman turns off the light and sees a shadow on the other side of the room, only to have it disappear when she clicks the lights back on. It’s an effective gimmick to be sure, but was that enough to merit making a feature film ? Well, that question is debatable, but I think they did as good enough of a job possible, given the limited source material.
It works especially well if you know that you’re going to have to do some walking through the dark later.
Now I do think that Lights Out is well made enough that genre fans are going to get something out of it. They even go the extra mile and explain why this is even happening, which is so rare to see, as the answer is almost always: “well, it is just ghosts from your past haunting you”. While I do appreciate this, I do have to call this movie out for being what it is: a giant bag of jump scares. You’re essentially dealing with the boogeyman here, as this entity can only exist in the darkness, and every time she pops up, it’s accompanied by a score swell and maybe a character yelling and screaming. It’s a bit of a pet peeve of mine within the genre, and to be honest it is kind of a turn off, just because it is something that so often comes as a package deal with the genre.
There is also every excuse in the book to have non-working lights, as you can probably imagine.
I do have an appreciation in that this movie gets you in and out as quickly as can be; at a lean 80 minutes, you can fit this into a busy schedule rather easily. Lights Out is what I like to call “hands over your eyes horror”, because it telegraphs where the scares are, and then usually follows through with it. It is very simple, but that’s understandable based on the fact that this is based on a three minute short. I liked Teresa Palmer in this, but I think Gabriel Bateman still has a ways to go as an actor, but hey, he’s only 12, so he has plenty of time to grow. There is also this boyfriend character (played by Alexander DiPersia) that I don’t really understand why he sticks around during this story; being in a relationship for eight months is not a good enough reason for him to tolerate the levels of crazy that he endures, but he does at least add for a little bit of comedic relief to the story. I think that this is going to play well to genre fans, and that’s really about it.
Lights Out (2016) ***
– Critic for Hire