Shine as Little Light as Possible on this Movie
DIRECTED BY DAVID F. SANDBERG/2016
The short film that the new horror film Lights Out is based on, which goes by the same title, hit the internet with some buzz in 2013. I follow about 10-15 different Facebook horror pages (ladies???) and they all shared the short. It was quite a little accomplished film, based on a very basic and intrinsic fear we all have: the dark. In the short film, someone is turning on and off a light, and they can see a human-looking creature when it’s dark, but can’t when the lights are on. With each flick of the light, this creature would get closer and closer to them. It was creepy, well made, and best of all…
So James Wan, the king of modern-day horror, which is probably more a comment on modern-day horror, sees it and wants to turn it into a feature-length film. So now the goal is to stretch an incredibly basic premise into at least 80 minutes.
it’s frustrating that there are moments of horror, but how much blah blah blah is slipped in between the scary moments.
So they use the crutch that many horror movies use to fill time. Exposition. Instead of a taught little film about a mysterious creature haunting the protagonist in the dark, and that mystery providing a good majority of the horror, now it’s time to fill time in with explanations and backstory.
And I can assure you, you won’t give a crap about any of it.
(Deep breath) A maybe mentally-ill mother Sophie (Maria Bello) is talking to herself at the beginning, which is witnessed by her son Martin (Gabriel Bateman), but it’s soon discovered she’s actually talking to a creature named Diana, who kills her husband because he’s trying to help her. You will eventually discover how Diana applies to Sophie, but know it has to do with childhood, a mental institute, a skin disease, medicine, jealousy, and a lot of other backstory I probably zoned out during. Martin and her daughter Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) and her lapdog boyfriend Bret (Alexander DiPersia) try to help Sophie, which creates an all-out war with Diana, and then 80 minutes happens (deep exhale).
There are some creepy parts. They live in a large mansion in LA (so, you know, screw them) which they constantly show outside shots of with different windows showing which lights are on. It creates a sense of doom which is then capitalized on inside the house. There is another scene where someone’s fate seems to be set in stone, but they keep finding ways to getting lights to turn on and thwarting the monster. It was this awesome, self-aware moment that felt as frustrating as it was brilliant due to how aloof the rest of the film is. And it’s equally frustrating that there are moments of horror, but how much blah blah blah is slipped in between the scary moments.
Lights Out is getting some early positive critical reception. So keep that in mind. Maybe I just missed something. But I feel the goodwill that is coming its way is comparing it to other Hollywood horror movies. There is a point that it’s better than most, but it’s an unnecessary comparison. Due to the internet and streaming services, great indie and foreign horror is delivered right to your living room. There’s no reason to keep the bar so low for horror. And more exposure to these great horror movies will not only enrich your life, but also make you realize how the occasional not-completely-terrible horror movies from major studios like Lights Out aren’t quite as original as you may think. Basically every horror movie made today, from this to Conjuring 2, seem to be influenced by The Babadook. But none of them half as good. There’s also a shot in Lights Out that is so stolen from the final shot in the Spanish horror film REC that I screamed out loud in the theater in frustration.
Director David Sandberg is next slated to direct the sequel to the awful Annabelle. Due to the first effort, I suspect horror fans will begin to turn against him and that film when it comes out. I look forward to claiming that I saw that the emperor had no clothes from the beginning.