Monday, 22 August 2016

Lights Out

In California, a family of three is being terrorised by an evil spirit that seemingly can only be seen in the dark. When the father is murdered by this monster, Sophie (Maria Bello) falls into depression and is regularly found to be talking to herself by her young son, Martin (Gabriel Bateman), however, Sophie is not talking to herself, but to the very same evil spirit. This has happened before, and it drove mother and daughter, Rebecca (Teresa Palmer), apart. Rebecca must find out the cause of this evil spirit's attachment to her mother before it destroys their family.

David F. Sandberg's feature debut gives you a very good reason to fear what's lurking in the dark, and ensuring that the lights never go out. Lights Out may take inspiration from other horror films such as The Ring and The Babadook but the film has such a terrific premise and thematic depth that its very much its own film. The premise itself, where a family is haunted by an evil spirit that can only be seen in the dark is a strong one and director David F. Sandberg makes the most of it using clever ways to generate light from different sources, be it a phone, flash light or car headlights. Importantly, this premise makes for a generally unnerving and often frightening experience, the monster or beast itself with its black and gangly figure does kinda make you want to reach for the light switch.

The film is given some depth, ensuring that its not just another PG-13 scarefest, by discussing thematic material similar to Jennifer Kent's film The Babadook from the previous year. Like The Babadook, the film is about a single mother who struggles to overcome the death of her husband, this grief and depression manifests itself into a horrifying monster that greatly affects her relationship with her younger son. Sandberg's film is far more moulded into the Hollywood horror formula with its jump scares and incompetent cops then Kent's film as Kent's film is far more of a psychological drama than an outright horror.

However, that's not to say Sandberg's film isn't without its drama, the depression theme and how it has an affect on the family unit as a whole is well developed, and the 'custody' battle between mother and daughter over Martin certainly gives room for thought concerning a child's well-being whilst being looked after by a depressed parent. Lights Out is a very short film (it isn't even 90 minutes long), perhaps because screenwriter Eric Heisserer didn't want to stretch out a three minute horror short too much, meaning that any family drama does quickly descend into scares, a positive if the dramatic elements of The Babadook wasn't your thing.

The back story and explanation is a little on the weak side in comparison to the supremely effective scares and superb performances from Maria Bello and Teresa Palmer, but David F. Sandberg's short horror flick has more going for then just frights.


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