REVIEW: “Lights Out”

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2016 has already delivered a couple of exceptional horror movies. “The Witch” and “The Conjuring 2” both offered up refreshing entries into a genre that could use a little energizing. Now we can add a third quality horror picture to the conversation – director David Sandberg’s lean, focused “Light’s Out”.

The movie is Sandberg’s feature film debut and is based on his own 3 minute short film from 2013. Here he stays centered on his subject barely stepping outside of his self-defined box. But that’s not a bad thing. It keeps “Lights Out” concentrated on its characters and on telling a good story within it’s compact 80 minute running time.

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Sandberg’s film doesn’t reinvent the genre and you will quickly notice several of the usual horror movie tricks. Jump scares, creaky floors, flashlights with low batteries, temporary stupidity from the characters – it’s all here but in more measured doses. Sandberg embraces these genre devices but his film works because he is smart enough to know what is important.

So often horror movies fail because of their inability to create authentic human characters we can empathize with. “Lights Out” gets that right. At its core is a grounded story of a torn, suffering, dysfunctional family. It succeeds because the characters are given enough attention and are fleshed out through a couple of strong performances.

Teresa Palmer is really good playing a young woman named Rebecca who has been estranged from her mentally troubled mother Sophie (Maria Bello) since her father walked out years earlier. When she learns her stepbrother Martin (Gabriel Bateman) is being terrorized by something from her family’s past Rebecca is drawn back into a reluctant relationship with her mother.

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The movie’s title comes from its violent creature that only appears in the dark. Light serves as the only protection and weapon which gives Sandberg a fun playground. He steers clear of CGI mostly using practical effects including true lighting and even a prosthetic suit for the creature. One reason for this may have been due to the minuscule budget, but that only makes its effectiveness more impressive.

Overall this is a tightly packaged horror thriller with a good steady pace, some decent scares, and a small interesting group of characters. Palmer and Bello are especially good and are given roles that are a fresh step above the female horror movie norm. It does employ a few all-too-familiar tricks, but they certainly don’t undercut the many things the film deserves credit for.

VERDICT – 4 STARS

4 Stars

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17 thoughts on “REVIEW: “Lights Out”

    • Hey Mark! Great to hear from ya. This is a nice little horror movie. Definitely nothing monumental or groundbreaking. Won’t make my year end Top 10, but I think it’s fun and well made.

      • Yeah, apologies for my absence bro. Blogging has taken a real backseat just now. Trying to find a feel for it again.

        Normally, I’d have written this one off as I do with most horror but you make it sound worthwhile. I quite the concept here.

      • I’ll get back into the swing again soon. Been working on few posts so once I get them out then you can easily get hooked again. I think it’s getting hooked again that I’m trying to avoid! Lol 😉

  1. I really love Palmer, so I think I’ll see this eventually, even though it hits some typical tropes. Great review!

    • Thanks. I like Palmer too and she is really good here. Not just some screaming damsel. She is given some actual character weight which I really appreciated. Check it out.

  2. I agree with your point that this film’s female leads, Palmer in particular, rose high above typical gender cliches, and I appreciated that. It’ll be great to see what other interesting roles Palmer will find in her career!

  3. Nice Review. I thought this looked pretty good as far as trailers go. I’m even more interested now that you mentioned it’s only 80 minutes long. I’m now intrigued to see what a horror film can do in such a short amount of time.

    • Thanks Liam. It’s a very tight, focused horror picture. Not just full of big scares but enough. I really went for the two key characters which made everything work.

  4. So looking forward to this. Great to see such positive remarks towards two of 2016’s other great horror films. So far it has been a good few months for mainstream horror. I hope it continues.

    • Same here. The genre is in such a weird place right now. Lots of mediocre to bad movies, but (as you mentioned) there have been some really good surprises. I still love The Conjuring 2 and I’m hoping Don’t Breathe is as good as I hope.

  5. Pingback: Movie Man Jackson looks at: 2016 Music in Movies (Part 4) | MovieManJackson

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