Lights Out (2016)
Directed by David Sandberg
“Lights Out,” from first-time director David Sandberg (adapting his own popular video short of the same name), taps into one of humanity’s oldest fears—darkness—in a horrifying and unique way. It’s also a great reminder to add light bulbs to your shopping list.
When Becca (Teresa Palmer) tries to take custody of her younger brother (Gabriel Bateman) from her mentally ill mother (Maria Bello, channeling something that makes her performance the film’s best) after the tragic death of their father, a malevolent spirit in the home does everything it can to stop her. As long as they’re in the light, the female demon can’t get to them. But light is a fickle thing.
“Lights Out” begins slowly, like most horror movies, with a few jump scares and a disturbingly real premise—turn off the lights and you might die. But throughout the films quick 80 minutes, that simple idea runs out of steam. “Lights Out” utilizes nearly every source of light imaginable to ward off this evil thing, but at some point it feels like it’s trying to be original for originality’s sake. But in the film’s final 30 minutes or so, during the final night (and despite the aforementioned annoying quirk), “Lights Out” becomes a tense and terrifying ghost story. There are a few cheap thrills, but for a solid half-hour I was covering my eyes and hoping for the best. Unlike the hundred-toothed nun ghost in “The Conjuring 2” or the silly suicidal demons in “The Forest,” a fear of the dark is a fear that 1) I already freakin’ had, and 2) I’m going to think about when if I turn out the lights tonight. Thanks a lot.