With all the mainstream horrors that get churned out today with the same jump scares and typically overdone stories it’s rare to find something a little more original that just sticks to something simple but yet manages to be effective. David F Sandberg’s new genre feature manages to do just that and scare us along the way too.
It follows the story of Rebecca (a strong performance from Teresa Palmer) who’s little brother Martin (Gabriel Bateman) starts experiencing something truly terrifying of which she also used to go through as a child. Every time the lights are out a scary figure appears but when they are turned on again it’s gone. As Rebecca reaches further into the past she discovers that the supernatural being has a connection with her mother (a brilliant Maria Bello) It’s as simple as that. The hard part is trying to figure out the evil’s origins and whether or not they can overcome it.
It’s refreshing to have a horror film of late which actually writes characters which we care about and sympathise with. In this film enough backstory is given – without dragging on for too long – so that we can connect with them and want them to overcome this evil. The cast all give solid performances. Teresa Palmer is charismatic as lead Rebecca; not having seen her in many central roles I felt she gave an honest and strong performance holding the story together. Child actor Gabriel Bateman joins the ever-growing recent list of new young actors who are proving very powerful indeed. Maria Bello is also great as Rebecca and Martin’s mother – Sophie. No stranger to the horror genre with the likes of The Dark and Secret Window on her resume she certainly plays the role well.
What the film is in danger of is generating the same jump scares over and over to try and create tension when all it does is become tiresome and predictable instead. Sandberg manages to avoid this here and instead he produces an eerie atmosphere by way of a superb script and just a few jumps here and there which you don’t see coming. He uses the space effectively and rather than building the story for two thirds of the film and rushing to the climax in the final third, he spends a short amount of time setting the scene and characters and then gets straight down to the threat at hand and the end result is both scary and memorable.
So 2016, the year that horror started to get interesting again, a year where there has been more good horror films than bad so where does the latest offering LIGHTS OUT sit within that scale?
LIGHTS OUT is a family based horror centred around the youngest child of the family who is seeing visions of something once it goes dark, the same visions that his older sister used to see whilst living at home. She in turn decides to help him whilst the mother goes through a serious breakdown and in her delusion she still believes that a girl she was in a mental hospital with is still alive and living within the family home. Question is, how much of this is real?
There is strictly nothing wrong with this movie, it is competent, it has a few scares and a lot of the tension isn’t in the creature but in the clever use of sound effects. A lot of the scares and effects we have seen before so don’t watch this expecting anything that is new or different.
What I found with this is it’s just very average, it isn’t a bad film, it doesn’t stand out it just will get released, a few people will watch it and it will fade off without ever being memorable. It all feels like we have seen it all before and for a horror fan I want my movies to shock and surprise me. This just lacked any real tension, wasn’t really scary and I just felt quite indifferent to it.
The nearest comparison I would say would be THE BABADOOK, a horror centred around family tension and if you liked that you will probably find something here that you like to. If you thought that was over hyped and not what it promised then you will probably feel the same about LIGHTS OUT.
It is worth seeing just for the fact it’s new, it’s not a remake and it is alright but it just sits in the middle of that scale.
Lights Out is at cinemas from the 26th August.