I saw today’s movie in a RedBox and started to remember that the trailer looked like it had some nifty spooky things in how they handled light, and since I had an October Horrorthon to prepare for, it seemed like a good enough reason to give it a shot. …And that’s pretty much it. There aren’t always good stories to these things. Anyway, the movie was Lights Out, written by Eric Heisserer, directed by David F. Sandberg, and starring Teresa Palmer, Maria Bello, Gabriel Bateman, Alicia Vela-Bailey, and Alexander DiPersia.
A man is murdered in a warehouse by a creepy shadow lady that looks like Penance from Generation X – let’s just call her Diana (Vela-Bailey). That man had a wife, Sophie (Bello), who is crazy, a stepdaughter, Rebecca (Palmer), who has left the family, and a son, Martin (Bateman), who is not sleeping well. When Sophie can’t be reached, Rebecca is contacted by child protective services because Martin keeps falling asleep in class. When asked, Martin claims that he can’t sleep because his mom keeps him up by talking with her friend Diana. …OH SNAP! That’s the name I gave to the evil ghost lady, isn’t it? That’s strange…
I found myself fairly underwhelmed by this movie, but I wouldn’t say I hated it. It was just kind of … regular. The story was a pretty basic haunting thing with a few twists to separate it from the pack a little, but that’s not really what sets it apart. They even put it in the title! It’s all the lights on and off stuff. That stuff was fun, but also was occasionally problematic. A ghost thing that can only be seen when it’s almost pitch black means that we will barely be able to see her most of the time. At least until they bust out the giant, check-your-hotel-room-for-semen style black light that this family has in their basement for some odd reason. Then you’ll see her and she just looks like a zombie or a lady with a skin condition. But the stuff they did with the darkness and the rules they set was fairly interesting, it just wasn’t that spooky, even if you ignore the fact that it shouldn’t be nearly that hard to keep yourself in the light. Go buy a battery or fire powered lantern, for crying out loud! But what they did go for with scares was used mostly for jump scares which can be fun, but probably won’t make your movie a classic if you can’t build enough tension and spookiness. Plus, only 3 people died in this movie! Super powered zombie ghost shadow lady should’ve tried a little bit harder.
There were at least some good performances in this movie. Teresa Palmer’s character was a bitch to people randomly and seemingly without reason in the beginning, but came around to a very likeable character when she started trying to look out for the welfare of her half-brother. She seemed to make fairly good decisions for the most part, but I cannot fathom how this girl would be in a haunted house with a shadow ghost that likes to jump out of the darkness at people and yet Rebecca still thought it would ever be a good idea to walk backwards into an open doorway. You should just hold your flashlight and spin around in circles until morning…or until you throw up. Either way, it seems pretty fun. I found Gabriel Bateman annoying, but I’m not entirely convinced that’s not just because I hate most kids. Maria Bello is great though. She plays really her role very unhinged but also sympathetic at the same time, which made the ending more disappointing. She couldn’t have found a better way out of this situation than she did? And by “she,” I feel like I actually mean “the writers.” Boyfriend guy was just kind of there to me and didn’t really make an impact beyond seeming like a big creep for being so determined to move in with Rebecca in the beginning that he wanted to leave some of his stuff there, and when she said no, he tried to stash a sock there. As if having some article of clothing in a girl’s house means that you’re dating now. If that were the case, I’d start leaving clothing in girl’s houses instead of leaving with their underwear like I do now. The only other character that stood out to me was the child protective services lady. She seemed nice enough, but I found it really dumb that when she was trying to indicate that she didn’t believe Rebecca was fit to raise a child, her examples seemed to be that Rebecca likes Heavy Metal music (or at least posters of them) and marijuana.
I feel like the best thing I can say about Lights Out is that it’s nifty. The story of the movie is fairly basic with one or two new ideas, but mostly the movie rests on the shoulders of one or two solid performances and some interesting jump scares based around lighting effects. You could probably get roughly the same effect of this movie by just watching the 7 minute short film of the same name that inspired this movie, but watching the movie isn’t a terrible option either. Lights Out gets “Mom, we need to talk” out of “We’re living with a dead woman.”
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