365 Movies By Day Reviews of Movies I Watch that I Feel Like Writing About


Lights Out (2016)

Lights Out is based on a 2 minute and 41 seconds short by directing newcomer David F. Sandberg. Creepy from its opening scene all the way to its final second which WILL creep you out, the film got the funding to be developed into a full-length film that stars not one, but two well-known actresses. The 2016 release flew under the radar. I never even heard of the film until it was brought up on repeated occasions of The Film Vault, a movie podcast site that inspired the Six Pack feature on my blog. If you're a person who watches A LOT of movies, the Film Vault is a weekly must listen to. Anderson and Bryan review all the recent films while also doing a Top Five segment each week (top five stabbings, top five divas, top five movies we can't wait to show our kids, etc.). Also, they assign each other movies that the other one probably would never see on their own and require each other to follow through on these assignments. Like almost all podcasts, it can get a little long at times and sometimes the movies they discuss are so obscure that you might have only seen two or three of the 15+ films they discuss each week. But if you watch a lot of movies, even if you don't necessarily agree with their lists entirely, you're going to be introduced to a lot of movies you've never heard of. And, if nothing else, you'll at least be intrigued to research some of these films to learn more. That's exactly what happened to me with Lights Out

There's not a lot to this movie. It's obvious that Sandberg and writer Eric Heisserer had to come up with some story that would allow them to showcase the jerks and shocks that made their short so successful. And while the duo is good with the scares, they aren't great with character development, story depth, dialogue, or evoking any emotion outside of the jolts. I don't blame them. Someone offered them tons of money to expand upon a three minute short. They took the opportunity and did the best they could do. And they made a fine little movie that had plenty of scares. It just wasn't perfect. I had fun with it. It's hard for me to get scared at the movies anymore so even if something I see has a couple of scares (even if I know they are coming) that get me to jump, I'm probably going to give it at least a semi-favorable score.

The premise with Lights Out is that there is a presence (named Diana) that haunts a family. Well...Diana doesn't haunt the family as much she is protective of the families matriarch Sophie (Maria Bello - Prisoners, A History of Violence). Sophie is a mother of upper elementary school son Martin (Gabriel Bateman) and young twenty-something daughter Rebecca (Teresa Palmer - Triple 9, King of Cups). She has been acting strangely recently, and we learn that she has a history of mental illness that caused Rebecca's father to leave her mother and Martin's father to be of grave concern. We meet Diana in the form of a shadow that is only seen by others when the lights are off. When the lights are on, she disappears. When they go off, she reappears and is closer. We get the idea. Eventually, a switch of the light is going to find Diana right in front of the person flipping the switch, and then all bets are off.

Sophie's mental conditions worsen as the presence of Diana becomes more prominent (or maybe it's the other way around). In either case, Diana is more powerful when Sophie isn't doing well. it causes Martin to stay up at night worrying about his mom talking to someone who doesn't exist. The results of sleepless nights have taken their toll on Martin who's falling asleep in school. This causes the school psychologist to check in on him. Eventually, Rebecca gets involved. Rebecca lives in a one bedroom apartment. She's dating Bret (Alexander DiPersia - CBS's CSI) who wants to have a more serious relationship with her. She prefers to keep it casual, kicking him out to the street after sex and not even letting him keep a sock in her apartment. Why is this important? It's not. Not at all. What's worse is that this type of personality isn't even the nature of her character. And it's not like she developed much. This movie takes place over the course of about 48 hours. There's only so much character development you can do when you're trying to battle a menacing presence that you can only keep away by keeping the lights on.

Why Rebecca and Bret think they can protect Martin on their own is beyond me. How they came to the conclusion that if Sophie takes her medication the presence of Diana will go away is a grasp. And you don't start to suddenly feel better when you take your mental medication. It takes awhile to ask. So, I think, if this massive shadow was terrifying me to the point that I figured I was going to get killed if the house went dark, I'd probably seek protection where I can pay people to stay awake while I sleep. And, also, if this being is unable to do anything if the lights are on, how is it (or it a she?) able to unscrew lightbulbs and blow out candles? The plot lines make no sense. The premise of the story changes as a matter of convenience.

With all of that said, it's still incredibly fun. The acting stunk. The writing sucked. The continuity made no sense. The direction wasn't great. But the spooks were plenty. And if you can get that in a movie, it's alright by me.

Horror fans should like this one.

Plot 7/10
Character Development 5/10
Character Chemistry 5/10
Acting 6/10
Screenplay 5/10
Directing 7/10
Cinematography 7/10
Sound 10/10
Hook and Reel 10/10
Universal Relevance 6/10

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