Saturday, July 23, 2016

Movie Review #458: "Lights Out" (2016)

Movie"Lights Out"
Director: David F. Sandberg
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hour, 21 minutes
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A ghost that can only appear in the dark has latched itself onto a woman named Sophie (Maria Bello), who is battling severe depression. When the ghost starts to torment her young son Martin (Gabriel Bateman), he seeks help from his semi-estranged older sister Rebecca (Teresa Palmer), who tries to uncover the mystery of this evil entity.

"Lights Out" is directed by David F. Sandberg, who makes his feature film directorial debut by adapting one of his early short films into a feature length movie. It stars Teresa Palmer as Rebecca, a twenty-something woman with abandonment issues due to her father disappearing many years prior. She has trouble getting close to people and won't even let her boyfriend Bret, played by Alexander DiPersia, stay the night. She is also estranged from her mother Sophie, played by Maria Bello, who is constantly battling a deep depression and possibly other forms of psychosis. When Rebecca's little brother Martin, played by Gabriel Bateman, starts to see a woman at his house whenever it is dark, he understandably has trouble sleeping. He seeks help from his sister, who starts to see this woman once she starts trying to intervene. Scared and concerned for the safety of her brother knowing her mother's condition, Rebecca is determined to uncover what is really going on and who this entity, known only as Diana, really is and what she wants.

Hollywood has had a very bad habit of giving audiences a slew of less than mediocre PG-13 horror films that have little to no story, are riddled with clich├ęs and contrivances, and rely entirely on jump scares and loud noises as their only form of terror. They are made because they are super cheap to produce and usually bring in a box office exponentially higher than their cost. Needless to say, we have been a little apprehensive about "Lights Out" because of all of this. Preconceived notions aside, we are glad to report this is one of the better PG-13 horror movies, for the most part. Director David F. Sandberg seems to be great at building tension and creating a creepy environment. This is mostly seen from start to finish, and with a short run time, "Lights Out" almost always feels nail-biting in some way. In addition, Sandberg and screenwriter Eric Heisserer have made a compelling story that puts a slightly psychological twist on the standard entity haunting-style movie. Instead of making throwaway characters the audience will wind up not caring about like most modern horror films, they have created characters we can and do get invested in, taking the time early on to build them up in a way that makes us root for their survival. The acting might not always be great, but with a veteran actress like Maria Bello leading the way, this really makes up for some of the flaws in the movie as a whole

 Not everything good about "Lights Out" comes from its writing. Visually, the demon haunting Sophie, Martin, and Rebecca looks pretty damn creepy, but it reminds us of a more "constantly in the dark" version of Samara from "The Ring." The way Diana moves her body and scratches her nails on the ground is eerie, and though this tactic doesn't reinvent the horror movie wheel, with the right mood behind it, it makes for one creepy antagonist. All of this praise is not to say the film is perfect. It does have quite a few cliches and it is a bit heavy on the jump scares accompanied by very loud noises. Not all of these jump scares hit their intended mark, and some miss really badly and become eardrum-piercing instead of scary. Because we get so wrapped up in the mystery, the characters and their relationships, this is only a minor complaint.

"Lights Out" is a solid selection for horror fans craving something to creep them out. It never feels overlong and will keep you interested enough throughout its short run time. The climax of this movie is great with a satisfying final result that serves to elevate the film overall, and has a lot of fantastic mood and tension to go along with it. This is definitely a step above the typical PG-13 horror fare.

My Rating: 7/10
BigJ's Rating: 7/10
IMDB's Rating: ~7.2/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: ~77%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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