† H a p p y   H a l l o w e e n †

This one's worth skipping.

This one’s worth skipping.

Not this time either, Wan.

Not this time either, Wan.

Lights Out revolves around one of the most basic fears of man kind. Everyone has been afraid of the dark to some extent and most people I know can relate to the creeping feeling that someone or something might take its chance to pounce on you once you turn out the lights in your home. This film takes it literally; when you switch off the lights, something does indeed appear. You aren’t even safe in your own house.

You have given me a spook.

You have given me a spook.

It’s a spine-tingling concept but having seen the film, I wonder if it might have been better and more exciting if it has been a 4 minute short – which it originally was, I’ve gathered. It’s an easy premise to stretch thin and there isn’t much in-between the frights to hold us over. Except the obligatory pop scares if you’re into those, as you shouldn’t be.

We open on a warehouse employee walking through her place of work after dark. As she starts switching off the lights, she spots the contour of what appears to be a malformed woman inside one of the shadows, which immediately disappears when she turns the light back on. As she keeps flicking the light, the thing re-appears, standing closer to her each time. She goes to alert her manager, played by Billy Burke, who gets killed by the being almost instantly when he goes to investigate. Again, pretty neat short film, but as I presume you already know, there’s more.

We join the stepdaughter of Burke’s character, Rebecca (Terese Palmer), who is forced to move back in with her mother (Maria Bello) and brother (Gabriel Bateman), after the former’s mental issues grow worse and the latter begins seeing the hostile entity from earlier in their home. It is eventually revealed that the creature may want to communicate with them, and that there may be a chance for our heroes to discover its backstory – who she used to be – and find a key to stopping it/her. I would have preferred it if they had to deal with a force that is entirely beyond our comprehension and control but the ending probably wouldn’t have satisfied many viewers.

lights-out-cast

Once again we’re dealing with James Wan, but this time around he is only the producer (the directing was done by David F. Sandberg and Eric Heisserer provides a screenplay that does not match Sandberg’s apparent talent). Many reviews bring up how Wan can either land a direct hit or a pitiable miss now that he’s doing more atmospheric and spine-tingling horror films than the fast-paced and convoluted gore-fests he started out on, e.g. Saw. Either we get something as good as The Conjuring, or we get something more by-the-numbers and bereft of captivating characters, like this.

Another film from this year, namely Don’t Breathe, is a superior option if you want to see a frightening film where darkness itself plays a meaningful role. It was intense and original, qualities which were lacking in Lights Out. That said, however, some audiences will like it. Not the kind that likes to see tropes being toyed with or having their expectations defied, but more probably the kind that simply wants cheap scares and more of “the usual” every Halloween. Of course we have the latter, more pleasable demographic to thank for the abundance of lengthy franchises in the world of horror movies today and as it happens, Lights Out is up next.

Yes, already there is talk of a sequel, signifying to me that James Wan will agree to give pretty much anything a follow-up, no matter how clear it is that the story in question already has an ending. I can understand wanting to address the unanswered questions of the Saw series, but can you honestly tell me that we need three Insidious movies, three films and counting set in the Conjuring universe, and another Lights Out? And for that matter, while we’re at it, do we need another Saw movie, as if to imply that Saw 3D, which had the unmistakable subtitle “The Final Chapter” somehow wasn’t “final” enough?

When I say that Lights Out has everything, I’m not paying it a compliment. It’s got everything we’ve seen in other horror films plus some genuinely unsettling images that we’ve seen in Tumblr gifs and faux vlogs about the Slenderman Mythos. The original Lights Out short film might be better and I’d love to check it out, but I feel like I get the idea.

2/5 whatever

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