A reasonably “by the numbers” horror experience with some script and performance problems, but otherwise a decent flick with a fantastic gimmick.
A creature lurks in the darkness, it can only be seen in the dark, and cannot attack you when you are in light. The story follows a broken family tormented by the specter…
Lights Out is directed by first-time director David F. Sandberg, who made Lights Out as a two minute short film in 2013. Horror juggernaut James Wan took up the project’s producer role and a feature film was born in 2016. The trailer gives away the film’s main appeal; a clever editing trick to make a shadowed figure disappear the moment lights are turned on. It is a fascinating and terrifying image.
Fear of the dark is perhaps the greatest horror trope as it plays on the most common primal instincts.
The question is, can a two minute short truly be made into a feature length film by a debut director? Well, yes and no.
Producer James Wan has made this film look really good. Like in his own projects, houses feel lived in, and the escalating horror is representative in its surroundings. Luckily it doesn’t have Insidious style hammy music.
The creature is great. A seemingly naked figure only in silhouette with long claws, with only the vague light reflecting off its eyes. Of course, its way of vanishing immediately upon lights being switched on, is fascinating and mortifying. I even liked its backstory; which is surprisingly involved and more complex than expected. Like an X-Files episode.
Even for his first film, Sandberg does a great job building tension and executing good jump scares with the device he has created. You genuinely get a fear of the darkness that surrounds the characters.
Really, Lights Out is a one trick pony. But it is a great trick.
However, the film’s script feels painfully overworked and unnatural. Some of the acting, perhaps in response to the script, is not great either, borderline terrible at times.
As the film progresses, the rules are very vague and we fall into more and more tropes; what the creature is capable of and what it is repelled by seems to vary, plus revealing the true appearance of the creature was disappointing. I would have preferred it staying as a silhouette.
There really isn’t much more to say about it. I enjoyed it. It peaks early and does slide downwards a little as it goes, which is disappointing, but as a visual horror trick, Lights Out is a decent time for horror fans.
There are certainly worse horror experiences out there!
Additional Marshmallows: Here’s the original short video by Sandberg, you can even subscribe to him on Youtube!