Director David F. Sandberg has, up until now, had a helming career made for YouTube. His output has consisted of several hair-raising if similar shorts meant to demonstrate he can turn out the horror movie cliches with the best of them. Now one of those shorts has been turned into a full-length feature, Lights Out, though substance-wise it doesn’t really add much to the three-minute-or-so version that came online in 2013.
Still, it was enough for ace director-producer James Wan to see the talent that could drive a summertime fright flick and turn in a tidy profit for New Line Cinema and Warner Bros, which releases this Friday. Wan , along with Lawrence Grey (who actually found the short in the first place) serves as producers along with several others with a variety of titles that also include the P word. As I say in my video review above (which is actually longer than the movie that inspired the new Lights Out), you probably won’t remember much of this 10 minutes after leaving the theater, but nevertheless it should provide a couple of real jolts to keep you awake and worried while watching. Wan’s superb and far superior The Conjuring 2 definitely shows he has the chops of a horror master-in-waiting; Sandberg, on the other hand, is more workmanlike in his approach to this familiar story of a demon haunting a woman and threatening her family and entire existence.
Eric Heisserer’s (also another producer) script has Maria Bello as Sophie, a mother with mental illness problems whose own brand of crazy drove her young daughter Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) up the wall as a kid. When she finally could, Rebecca moved out, but eventually she is called back when her young stepbrother Martin (Gabriel Bateman), whose father Paul (Billy Burke) dies, starts showing signs of the exact same problems Rebecca exhibited and it turns out it all has to do with a mysterious demon his mom calls Diana (Alicia Vera-Bailey). Diana is a blurry, wiry and determined ghost-like force that only comes out in the dark, keeping the same kind of hours as a vampire. Clearly this apparition — or whatever — is doing a number on Sophie, and things are coming to a boil. Will Sophie rise to the occasion and put her family first? Or does Diana gain the upper hand and live to see the sequel?
Thanks to some superior cinematography from Marc Spicer and capable work from the sound team, I did fall for some of the scary stuff along the way, but the thrills don’t last long enough to get to the parking garage. Thank god though for Bello, who is a good enough actress to make Sophie’s plight at least credible enough for the audience to care about her demonic troubles. Palmer and Bateman also score points for being good sports and going along for the ride. Clearly, Warner Bros and New Line hope this can spawn a extreme low-budget series a la Paranormal Activity. Horror fans, especially those of the non-discerning variety, might bite, so don’t let this review ruin your fun. As for me, once is enough.
Do you plan to see Lights Out? Let us know what you think.
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