Lights out, a film that had everything going for it, but ultimately gave up its ghost far too early and in the end became a repetitive showcase of peekaboo jump-scares and abundant CGI ghost-scenes.
It’s no secret that we at Beyond the Gore seem to go against the grain when it comes to the trending opinion of one Mr James Wan from the hardened horror elite. We enjoy his films, and as such when his name should turn up as producer on another spooky little number we felt compelled to give it a go. I’m glad we did, as its solid entertainment, but it falls far short of its potential despite a very strong start.
The film follows a broken family, splintered in both mind and unity due to the presence of ‘Diana’ a terrifying entity who stalks the family with contempt. The opening of the film shows the father of the family being accosted in his warehouse by a ghostly presence which appears in the shadows but vanishes in when the lights are turned on. Terrified (quite rightly – the creature design looks amazing), he quickly retreats to the sanctity of his well-lit office; then, the lights go out and the nasty gets him. Cut to modern day, and the decline in the mental health of the mother, the family must bond together and tackle the creature in the hopes of rebuilding their shattered lives.
In theory, and at the start of the movie all this has the hallmarks of being another powerhouse creeper, but sadly, as run time continues it is evident that ‘Lights Out’ is a film of style but little substance. The attack at the start had the hallmarks of true potential, and I won’t lie, I was shitting myself for the best part of 30 minutes. The whole concept of the monster disappearing and reappearing accumulated in a tension building and then satisfyingly breaking jump-scares. These were well done, and akin to the much-replicated camera-flash scares which did the rounds online and in films few years ago. They work, and as I’ve already said, the creature effects are amazing. In the dark she stands average height, her matted hair falling to shoulder length like tendrils, she is skinny and walks in the creepiest way possible. Her fingers are long, ending with talons. If I had to give a mash up I would say it is a cross between ‘Left-4-Deads Witch monster’ and Sleep Away Camp’s ‘Angela nude scene’. Hideous!
As the runtime went on I was satisfied. Plot was holding up well and the families search for answers as to the origins of the entity led to a pretty cool (albeit a little farfetched) back story. The acting and production values were also well up there. First time Director David F. Sandburg was working well under influence of veteran Wan.
Sadly however, by about an hour in I did have one minor gripe. I felt that the ghost’s scare devices had essentially backed the terror into a corner prematurely. There is only a limited amount of time you can have a sequence where power can fail, and flickering lights can give the ghost the opportunity to make progressive movement towards the victim before, BA-BLAM *jump-scare*. The concept worked in his 2013 short film entry, but I think there needed to be a little more elaboration on the formula to work as a feature. Clearly recognising this the film throws in some new victims as fodder, and more CGI ghost effects, which for me undermined the integrity of the threat. This for me released the tension and give diminishing returns by the time the credits rolled.
That said, just because I would have preferred a subtler ghostly presence, doesn’t mean to say that overall ‘Lights Out’ is not a good movie taken as is. We all enjoyed it overall, its just that by the end we weren’t as scared as we were at the start (except for my girlfriend that is). The production values are high, the monster gives some great jolts and the story is interesting. It will be interesting to see what Sandburg can do with his next film Annabelle 2, with the antagonist already established horror franchise.