Lights Out: Solid Acting & Atmosphere Cover Cracks of Routine Supernatural Horror
Based on David F. Sandberg’s much-admired 2013 three-minute short film of the same name, Lights Out’s feature adaptation has just enough to it to earn a passing grade. Written for the big-screen by Eric Heisserer, the scare tactics used are unoriginal and seemingly predictable, however, Sandberg finds a way to infuse fear by generating a fairly creepy atmosphere while effectively playing on rational fear of the dark.
Lights Out opens with a sequence in a factory where owner, Paul (Burke), encounters a mysterious female figure in the dark, which disappears from view whenever the lights come back on. This comes after a phone call that reveals that his wife, Sophie (Bello), has gone off her meds is was talking to an imaginary friend called Diana.
Several months later, Sophie’s condition worsens and when their son, Martin – seemingly suffering from bouts of insomnia – mentions the name Diana to his half-sister, Rebecca (Palmer), she immediately recognises the name from her own traumatic childhood experiences and insists on having Martin stay with her. However, this doesn’t go down well with Sophie who soon arranges for Martin to return home, while Rebecca digs deeper in to ‘Diana’.
Lights Out is by no means an original or innovative supernatural horror, with Sandberg relying upon a string of cheap – and not always effective – jump scares to deliver the frights whilst utilising a piercingly loud and unnecessarily persistent musical score which seems to accompany every single BOO! moment. However, running at a lean seventy-nine minutes, Lights Out is undemanding, relatively simple and doesn’t take too long before jumping into the meat of the story. In addition, the atmosphere is spooky and watching the dark corners and waiting for something to pop out is effectively discomforting.
The performances from the entire cast are solid with Palmer – a blonde version of Kristen Stewart but with a bit more personality – offering much better delivery than what the script probably required whilst Bateman is strong as the young lead. Short, jumpy and to a certain degree, effective, Lights Out is not a complete waste of time and although derivative in nature – the whys and hows are also not all answered – Sandberg proves that he is capable of drawing out just enough chills to make Lights Out a flawed but fun summer watch.