Are you afraid of the dark? Do you leave a light on when you go to bed at night? If you answered no to these questions, then Lights Out will introduce you to the joy of sleeping with the lights on.
Directed by David F. Sandberg, Lights Out is the cinematic expansion of a three-minute short film with the same title that was posted on YouTube. Sandberg himself made the short with wife Lotta Losten. In the short, Lotta plays a woman being terrorised by a creature lurking in her home. The only way she can stop this thing from getting closer to her is to keep the lights on.
After becoming a viral hit online and with James Wan as producer, Sandberg expands his three-minute short to feature length, introducing more locations, new characters and a backstory on the “creature”. The movie focuses on the creature going after Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) and her stepbrother Martin (Gabriel Bateman).
The creature is revealed to be a lady who goes by the name Diana. While I’d like to think of Diana as the subject of a Michael Jackson song, it turns out that she is an old friend of Rebecca and Martin’s mum Sophie (Maria Bello). Diana is supposed to be dead, yet Sophie talks to her like she’s still alive. She stays in Sophie’s room and comes out when it gets dark at night.
It would be great if Diana would help with the rent, but she doesn’t. Instead, she just makes creepy scraping noises, much to the chagrin of Martin, who ends up staying awake the whole night. She also utilises her great sense of direction to travel from one home to another, harming anyone related to Sophie.
To my horror, she uses her excellent penmanship and sharp nails to leave ominous words on hardwood floors. Do you know how expensive it is to cover up those scratches? Damn you, Diana.
Well, Diana deserves some credit for helping to keep the electricity bill down. She makes Sophie unscrew light bulbs at home and limit TV time to help ease her sinister movements around the house.
Diana’s unwanted presence is felt throughout the movie. Each time the lights flicker on and off, you will find yourself dreading what is to come out of every dark corner or shadowy walkway.
And every time Diana succesfully reaches a victim, the scene predictably ends with an unnecessarily loud jump scare. But Sandberg manages to maintain a feeling of unease because Diana’s true face is not revealed, leaving it up to the audience to hope that she looks like a K-pop star complete with dewy complexion. Spoiler alert: Not even close.
Plus, she strikes when the viewer least expects it. The tension intensifies when our hapless characters have to rely on everyday objects like cell phones, flashlights and sticky tape to keep Diana away. Where are the Warrens when you need them in 2016?However, Lights Out tends to lose its way when it dwells on Diana’s past.
I’m sure Diana, sophisticated lady that she is, would have appreciated a little bit more mystery.
Plus with the movie’s relatively short running time of 81 minutes, the audience may feel a bit shortchanged. Then again, some would appreciate the running time as an excuse to get out of the dark cinema earlier. If you do get out, stay in the light. Maybe try to leave work at 4pm. Check under the bed. Ignore the strange sound in the bathroom.
You know what, just sleep at the 24-hour convenience store. Be there until they fix the Slurpee machine so you have an excuse to stay longer.
Director: David F. Sandberg
Cast: Teresa Palmer, Gabriel Bateman, Maria Bello, Billy Burke, Alex DiPersia