Horror movies these days… They are much like dipping your hand in your favourite chocolate selection box. Chances are you will eat whatever it is that comes out, but occasion you might dig out that one last Galaxy Truffle that has been missed and everything will feel great in the world once again. Watching “Lights Out” is like finding the box of chocolates, but all that’s left is the Hazelnut Praline. Sure it tastes good after the first 1 or 2, but you’re not going to enjoying spending the night eating just those surely?
Anyway, back on track. “Lights Out” had the unfortunate opportunity of opening it’s light vs dark horror narrative against what appears to be the far superior “Don’t Breathe“. After an incredible first trailer it looked as though “Lights Out” was due to achieve something not seen in a long time: A horror film that is inventive and effective at being both too frightening to watch but too captivating to miss.
Round 1 – Plot
I’m not usually one to copy the synopsis of a movie directly from another site, however for reasons I will get to shortly the overall plot of “Lights Out” is as follows:
From producer James Wan, comes a tale of an unknown terror that lurks in the dark. When Rebecca left home, she thought she left her childhood fears behind. Growing up, she was never really sure of what was and wasn’t real when the lights went out…
Literally from the opening 5 minutes of the movie we shown who the main protagonist will be and the means in which she plans to torment the audience and characters alike throughout the course of the story. However in some strange way, the opening sequence managed to be both entertaining and predictable at the same time? From that moment on the audience was aware of where the jump scares were supposed to happen and in what manner.
I’ll admit I liked the concept of only existing in the dark, and that by switching the light on the character was in fact seeing less than before. However it became stale very quickly, there was little surprise and the scares seemed recycled as well as the tedious back story attached to the villain: Diana. Sure it had its moments but if you seen the Ring, or the Grudge, or the Babadook or anything directed by James Wan you will realise that this is the same Jack in the Box wrapped in a different bow.
ROUND 1 SCORE : 5/10
Round 2 – Characters
At a glance the cast of “Lights Out” looked to be solid. With people such as Maria Bello and Billy Burke at the helm it was possible that this film could provide a visceral thriller worthy of watching from behind the wall of pillows you have built. Or maybe not.
Burke’s character (no spoilers!) served no purpose to the plot aside from the occasional passing comment. Bello is restricted to cowering in her darkened room speaking to shadows, quite humourously at times it must be said. This left the only person capable of carrying this dead weight back from the brink of defeat: Teresa Palmer (?)
I have no issue with Teresa Palmer, I’m sure she is wonderful human being with a wonderful soul. However carry a believable horror movie she does not. Nothing shouts fiction to me more than well placed posters and occasional eye-liner smears. For a young adult suffering from parental desolation she seemed to be quite grounded and well balanced all things considered. Her interactions with her brother Martin were ok. Her persistent emptiness towards her man-friend Alexander DiPersia failed to show any empathy. And her sudden resolution of emotion towards her mother left more more than one scratch needed for my head to truly understand what was going on.
ROUND 2 SCORE: 4/10
Round 3 – Overall Enjoyment
“Lights Out” is not that bad of a film that there is zero enjoyment to be had. As mentioned before the premise of the story is original enough that immediately after watching it I can guarantee you will look twice when walking up the stairs in the dark. That to me proves that this film presents enough enjoyability to pass itself off as a success.
Sure some of the scares are cheap, and the villain is a typically scorned mental patient with long black hair and a grudge against someone or something that caused this nightmare existence to occur. But besides all that it does not take too long to become interesting, and at least manages to engage the viewer in a story potentially not seen before.
ROUND 3 SCORE: 6/10
FINAL SCORE: “LIGHTS OUT” WINS 15/30
“Lights Out” is what is both brilliant and frustrating about the the horror genre in general today. With original stories seemingly becoming fewer and fewer it is inevitable for certain liberties to be taken when producing the “next big hit”. However when a story such as this one arrives it has the potential to shake the moviegoing experience of a viewer to the very core. Instead, they are treated to a bloated storyline that focuses too heavily on the relationship between character and audience and less abouttemporarily preventing the viewer from ever sleeping in the dark again!