Boy, what a mixed bag of emotions that I have with this one, but ultimately excited for. What do I mean? Well, it’s interesting to see that this ghost woman only appears when the lights are out, and the trailer is definitely hammering in how committed to this they want to be. But of course, I’m wondering how long it will take the core characters being attacked by the woman to figure it out. The easiest defense would be a bright-ass flashlight, or the flashlight app on your phone, but I can probably already guess that the movie is going to give a half-assed explanation why that won’t be a thing. Still, the trailer itself gave me nightmares a couple of nights in a row, so I can only assume the movie will be just as freaky. I know James Wan is attached to this project every which way in the advertisements, but he’s not directing this time; only producing. The director this time is David F. Sandberg, making his feature length directorial debut. Wanna know a fun fact? He mostly did shorts before this and one of those shorts was titled, LIGHTS OUT. Yup, I want to say that Wan saw the short and offered Sandberg to make a feature length version with a budget and everything. Either way, this looks like a solid and different flick than the usual crappy horror films I’ve been privy to in the past, so who knows? But how does it hold up? Are my lights staying on so I can get a decent nights sleep, or am I going subjected to more formulaic terror that a toddler wouldn’t lose a wink over? This is my honest opinion of LIGHTS OUT.
Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) lives a carefree independent life. But this wasn’t due to happy beginnings. As a child, she was haunted by a shadowy apparition woman named Diana (Alicia Vela-Bailey). But convinced by others that the hauntings she experienced weren’t real, she became estranged from her mentally unstable mother, Sophie (Maria Bello), who knew Diana as children. Fast-forward to the present, though Diana killed Sophie’s second husband, Paul (Billy Burke), because he’d intended to help Sophie get better, now Rebecca’s younger brother, Martin (Gabriel Bateman), is experiencing the same hauntings from Diana that Rebecca went through. Refusing to let him be harmed, she attempts to take him home with her, but legalities get in the way as their mother is his legal guardian and being able to keep him with her means to take their mother to court and to uproot her life to prove that Martin can be raised in a safe and acceptable environment, which at first glance, faith isn’t on her side. But as the situation in Sophie’s house intensifies and Diana’s influence on Sophie gets stronger, Rebecca can’t sit idly by any longer.
Another solid horror movie in recent months. Not quite as good as THE CONJURING, but it stands pretty strong on its own merits.
I’m going to start with the few problems that I had because I really want to talk about the positives. Really though, all of my problems with the film are in the final third of the movie. For example, the boyfriend, Brett (Alexander DiPersia), goes out for groceries. He’s been gone for, like, five minutes. After revealing Diana’s backstory to Martin, we hear a knock. Immediately, Becca thinks it’s Brett. She opens the door and BUM BUM BUUUUM, whaaaat?! No one’s there! The audience knows what’s up, but Becca’s first thought is, “Brett?” Looking around for him like he’d knock on the door and play hide and seek. Uh… no, bitch, if the audience knows it’s Diana, it should fuck ass damn well be obvious to this otherwise well-written character.
There’s also shit at the end (NO SPOILERS) where Becca’s navigating through the house holding up her blacklight and walking backwards, when it’s so predictable that Diana will attack from whatever direction her target isn’t facing.
The ending is also mighty inconsistent. Diana, throughout the movie, simply disappears when light is flashed on her. The audience sort of just accepts that she’s a ghost (fuckin’ liar, Bello). Even her ghostly weakness makes a lot of sense: xeroderma pigmentosum (though it’s probably a radically fictionalized version). So why is she given a physical form that reacts like a vampire to light at the end? This is total bullshit. Maybe you could argue it’s a “blacklight” thing as opposed to a “light bulb” thing, but even that theory doesn’t hold any water as Becca does confront Diana once or twice with the blacklight and does disappear accordingly. I think… might have to see this one again to be sure.
Other negatives include a lot convenient faulty lightings wherever these characters go. Seriously, not one of these places has a lamp that just works? Silly moments, like Diana carving her name into the hardwood floors along with a stick figure next to it. Diana, the only scary thing about that is the bill that this family is going to pay the guy who’s going to replace the flooring. And why are you wasting time with doing that, instead of killing Becca right there and then in her sleep? And did anyone else notice that the way she talks remains the same even when she was alive and a teenager? She always sounded like a wannabe Nolan-Batman?
But that’s enough about the bad, let’s tackle what made the movie almost great. I gotta give credit, we have some smart characters in this one. First two encounters have a lady leaving the light on before getting attacked by Diana. Billy Burke’s character quickly figures out that she’s no good with the light and plays it smart. But damn fuck those recurring faulty lights, which is what kills him off. They’ll get a crap load of candles, light ’em up and strew them around. Martin’s even kind of smart by keeping a flashlight in certain places, though why he needs to hide them in secret compartments is anyone’s guess.
I also love how the ghost isn’t a complete mystery or unknown to every character. In fact, it’s kind of interesting to see that not only does a character intimately know the dead person, but continues to remain in contact with it. You see that there is a connection between her and Sophia and you kind of feel for Sophia. The situation with this family is pretty complex and it’s difficult to single out any real “bad guy,” a person at fault, or even to find someone completely innocent. Sophia feels guilty about abandoning Diana and wants to be a good friend to her. I wish we’d gotten a bit more of an in depth look at their relationship in the asylum, but a connection was established and for an inexperienced or foolish writer, that could have been easily overlooked. You can understand all that, but it’s hard to call her a victim since she practically allows her kids to be attacked or harmed, trying to justify her own actions. While you can also argue that Becca abandoned her mother for her own well-being, bare in mind that she also left her brother in her mother’s care, whom has proven to be unstable, influenced by Diana or not and it’s implied that she doesn’t check in very often. Again though, you can’t hate her for it because her mother basically allowed Diana to haunt her and convinced her that it wasn’t real.
But more than that, and speaking of relationships, I actually didn’t hate this romance between Becca and Brett. In fact, it was kind of endearing. Brett is surprisingly well-written. He wants to be in a committed relationship with Becca, and he’s trying to constantly find ways to push their relationship of eight months further, despite her apprehension. He’ll ask for a drawer to keep his clothes in, she’ll say no, he’ll suggest a single sock, she’d say no again, try to leave that sock, but she’d find it and throw it back at him. These are legit cute moments that might even surpass some romance movies.
Even better, we have emotional weight in the story. Like I said before, throughout the story, we know that Sophia is mentally stable, but she’s not beyond the audience caring about her. We know she’s trying to walk the line of being a good mother and good friend and she struggles with what’s right and wrong. But as soon as shit hits the fan and Diana crosses the line by actively trying to kill Becca and Martin, Sophia doesn’t miss a beat in fighting back against her. It’s revealed earlier that Sophia is Diana’s anchor into this world and only appears when Sophia is at her worst mental states, particularly when Becca’s father left them and when Paul was killed by Diana. There’s actually some solid build-up to helping Sophia try and let go of her attachment to Diana, but the film’s climax leaves a legitimately sad resolution: Sophia knows there’s no Diana without her, so she pulls the gun from a dead police officer and kills herself, effectively killing Diana as well. Palmer’s performance is heart-wrenching as she cries and screams for her mother. This was a fabulous ending. Sad, but executed wonderfully.
Like I said, it’s not as good as THE CONJURING, what with the cliches toward the end, but it’s still got a lot of great aspects about it that make it worth watching. The acting is spot-on, the characters are easy to identify with, and there’s plenty of intelligent writing to make this horror flick worth seeing. Highly recommended for you movie-goers who are looking for a horror movie with good characters and an interesting story.
My honest rating: 4/5
- ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS: THE MOVIE (comedy)
- Directed by Mandie Fletcher (TV shows IN AND OUT OF THE KITCHEN [3 episodes], and ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS [2011-2012; 3 episodes])
- Written by Jennifer Saunders
- Stars Jennifer Saunders (MINIONS, CORALINE, and TV show ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS), and Joanna Lumley (ME BEFORE YOU, THE WOLF OF WALL STREET, and TV show ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS
- ICE AGE: COLLISION COURSE (animated comedy adventure)
- Directed by Galen T. Chu (directorial feature length debut) and Mike Thurmeier (ICE AGE: CONTINENTAL DRIFT)
- Written by Michael J. Wilson (SHARK TALE, THE TUXEDO, and ICE AGE), Michael Berg (ICE AGE: CONTINENTAL DRIFT, DAWN OF THE DINOSAURS, and ICE AGE), Yoni Brenner (RIO 2, ICE AGE: DAWN OF THE DINOSAURS). Story credit: Aubrey Soloman (PROGENY, TV shows ROBOCOP [1994 – 1 episode], and HIGHLANDER [1993 – 1 episode])
- Stars voice talents of Ray Romano (ICE AGE: CONTINENTAL DRIFT, and TV shows EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND and MEN OF A CERTAIN AGE), John Leguizamo (THE INFILTRATOR, CHEF, and THE SUPER MARIO BROS.), Denis Leary (DRAFT DAY, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, and TV show RESCUE ME),Queen Latifa (MIRACLES FROM HEAVEN, ICE AGE: CONTINENTAL DRIFT, and BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE), and more.
Possible Upcoming Review:
- BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE (animated)
- Based on the popular DC comic foretelling an origin story of Batman’s greatest enemy, as well as hailed as one of the definitive Joker iterations.
- Directed by Sam Liu (JUSTICE LEAGUE VS. TEEN TITANS, BATMAN: YEAR ONE, and SUPERMAN/BATMAN: PUBLIC ENEMIES)
- Written by Brian Azzarello (BATMAN: GOTHAM KNIGHT – 1 segment)
- Stars voice talents of Kevin Conroy (YOGA HOSERS, video game BATMAN: ARKHAM KNIGHT, and TV show BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES), Mark Hamill (STAR WARS EPISODE VII: THE FORCE AWAKENS, JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK, and TV show BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES), Tara Strong (THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS, and TV shows ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN and TEEN TITANS), John DiMaggio (TV shows ADVENTURE TIME and FUTURAMA and video game GEARS OF WAR), and more.