Lights Out Will Keep You Afraid of the Dark
It seems fitting that the night I saw Lights Out in theaters there was a power outage in my apartment and everything was pitch black. I had been meaning to see it and figured what better time to do so? The first trailer to the film was surprisingly well done. If you don’t remember it, look it up. It gave us pretty much the opening scene of the movie and a little taste of what was to be expected. It did a great job at sharing the ambiance of the film. There’s something about Lights Out that I can’t quite grasp. It’s a movie that had the makings of a complete horror flop but it just wouldn’t die, and that’s a good thing.
[Lights Out] had the makings of a complete horror flop but it just wouldn’t die, and that’s a good thing.
What intrigued me the most about Lights Out were the characters. Our main three (four technically) characters were totally against the grain. From the get-go it looks like each will be a stereotype of the horror genre. We have the manly “boyfriend”, the “I’m damaged” girl, and the “something’s in the dark” kid. These are generous titles, however. Lights Out paints our characters in this light…no pun intended, on purpose with every intention of throwing these stereotypes through the grinder in order to flesh out a new mold for each, and it works. These characters are far more interesting, imaginative, compelling, and loyal than any supernatural horror film would have you believe. Theresa Palmer’s Rebecca is fun to watch. She’s smart, witty, and yes, of course she’s damaged but for a very good reason which I won’t spoil. Her half-brother Martin, played by Gabriel Bateman, is cute and on the surface he’s just there to feed the plot for his sister, but once you get a little further into the film there’s a connection between the two that’s so integral to the story of the film.
While the characters were fleshed out, almost mockingly in a sense, the film’s story held its own. A horror film about some creature that stays in the dark and won’t attack in the light? How many times has that been done? Enough. But the thing that puts Lights Out a step above its competition is the full fleshed back story we get with our antagonist…I’ll call it a monster for the sake of argument. There’s a deep seeded story behind this character that’s driven home through the details from our main characters’ mother, portrayed by Maria Bello. The once human qualities we’re presented with for the monster make it an even more interesting discovery as to what it is and how it became. I think it’s important to note that in a time where mainstream horror movies are easily thrown to the way side, given garbage plot and even worse writing and characters, Lights Out fights its hardest to make sure it doesn't to fall into that category.
Lights Out fights its hardest to make sure...it doesn’t fall into that [throw away] category.
The film uses a generous balance of sheer shock and jump scares that sets you up for a random display of fright. It plays up these angles incredibly well, making it hard to guess what kind of fright will hit you next. Will there be something in that shadow? In a way it plays off these tropes the same way horror has learned to do with the double take in the mirror gag. There’s only two ways it can go, somethings there, or something isn’t but Lights Out likes to trick you. It likes to make you believe both may happen which gave me an extra adrenaline rush while sitting in the theater.
The biggest let down of the film, which is something I’ve unfortunately been seeing way more of than I’d like; was the ending. In the same way The Boy let me down terribly by its finale, Lights Out has an incredibly lackluster ending. The whole third act of the film is great. We’re locked in the house with the monster and our characters must fight to find any light source they can just to stay alive. What ruined it for me, was how quickly they were able to extinguish their villain in the end. There wasn’t much of a battle, and yes I understand that’s a difficult premise to capitalize on in a supernatural horror film, but I needed more of a battle. Take The Woman In Black for instance, the entire third act of that film was the battle to end the woman. The ending to Lights Out felt a little more like the writers forgot they had to end the film and just decided to pop it out in one page. Its lackluster finale definitely did not live up to its own potential.
Its lackluster finale definitely did not live up to its own potential.
There’s a question I like to ask myself, and others, while viewing horror movies: is this film better situated to be viewed at the theater or at your home? Which of these environments gives you the proper ambiance? Which will let you take the most out of the experience? Well, Lights Out can depend heavily on the jump scares at time, so if you are the type of person that’s taken out of an experience by screams of an audience then I’d definitely say it’s a film to be enjoyed in your home. There is one thing I urge you to do though, watch Lights Out alone. Not with a friend, not with a loved one, not even with your dog. Watch Lights Out by yourself and see what kind of experience you have. I’m a big advocate of watching horror movies alone, there’s no better experience.
Lights Out did something I didn’t expect it to do. It surprised me. In a time where most mainstream horror movies are far more miss than hit, it does a solid job of keeping you interested and wanting more throughout its 81 minute run time. If you’re a fan of the horror genre you can’t go wrong. It hits all of its marks and does so without skipping a beat. Lights Out is good horror. It’s a solid film with some minor setbacks but that shouldn’t take away from your experience, and it definitely is an experience worth having.