David F. Sandberg's Lights Out is a frightening horror flick that works because of its simplistic plot, which is adapted from a short film with enough jump-scares and suspense to send chills up your spine.
David F. Sandberg‘s Lights Out is that rare PG-13 studio horror film that works. It moves at a brisk pace and is shot with enough behind-the-camera competence to warrant praise. Sandberg’s simple, yet intriguing plot and eye for jump-scares helps make Lights Out the best horror film of the summer with ease.
Lights Out follows Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) and her little brother Martin (Gabriel Bateman) as they are haunted by a mysterious creature from their mother’s (Mario Bello) past. Why is this entity following them and what does it have to do with their mom?
David F. Sandberg adapts his short film into a full-length feature and he does it almost perfectly. He manages to capture that same mystery and suspense revealed in his short, yet expand upon it and introduce even more frightening new visuals.
Sure, the story of Lights Out is rather simple and far from intricate, but it works because Sandberg focuses on the scares and the talent that he’s managed to assemble to help sell said scares.
Teresa Palmer makes Rebecca a likable and relatable character, with enough mystery surrounding her own childhood to make you want to invest into her for the film’s entire short running time.
Gabriel Bateman plays her little brother Martin with the perfect amount of believability. On one hand he’s a mature-enough young man that understands what is going on around him and reacts as calm as one would reasonably react, while on the other hand he provides the film with the needed child character that just has to shine that flashlight into the dark corner, despite his instincts telling him to hide under the covers.
Heck, even Rebecca’s boyfriend is nice. Generally, the boyfriend role in horror films is reserved for an unlikable airhead or idiot, yet this time around we’ve got a beyond nice guy that probably should’ve moved on a long time ago. Watching him actually find a spot within the film is refreshing and helps Lights Out at the very least work on a performance level.
There is a decent amount of laughable and sometimes even questionable dialogue that distances Lights Out from other films when it comes to being a completely well-rounded horror film, but as is Lights Out works efficiently given its resources and mostly unknown talent.
Lights Out is director David F. Sandberg‘s first full-length film and from the looks of it alone Sandberg shows strong talent and promise as a horror filmmaker. He understands spacial awareness and how to maximize the tension before a big jump-scare and most of all he knows how to wield a steady camera. He picks some interesting shots, but mostly shoots Lights Out with a calm and somewhat restrained hand.
I applaud him for not going completely nuts with the camera work and for being able to string the whole thing together. The story, while light, still works as a horror film that mainly just wants to scare the pants out of you within its PG-13 boundaries. Sandberg mostly succeeds on that front, with some of the footage from the released trailers proving to be the best.
There are plenty of scares that weren’t spoiled and that will definitely have you clutching your seat at one point or another.
The Conjuring 2 might be a better film in terms of its production value, inventiveness and performances, but I honestly think that Lights Out works as a better horror film in terms of scare value. Sandberg is no James Wan, but he shows potential as a filmmaker that will perhaps grow into his own with another film or two.
I’m looking forward to seeing what Sandberg does next and I hope that he continues to make horror films that are original, creepy and as well-shot as Lights Out.
Lights Out is the perfect mid-summer scare for those looking for a little horror to toss into their summer blockbuster lineup. It’s a fairly short film that never overstays its welcome and always has a scare up its sleeve for whenever you’re starting to feel comfortable in your seat. Give it a go and support Sandberg and his crew for managing to deliver a unique studio-funded horror film in the middle of a summer that’s full of sequels and big-budget action spectacle.