Nothing excites and scares me more than the idea of a 2 minute YouTube short becoming a full feature film. While you always root for your favorite little shorts to get their time on the big screen, the likelihood of things going terribly wrong and falling away from the heart of the short is very probable. The wild success of the Lights Out short made it deserving of a chance, and director David F. Sandberg ran with the opportunity and nailed it. He brings us Lights Out – a tidy, effective little thriller that is perfect for the summer.
From producer James Wan ( The Conjuring) comes a tale of unknown terror that lurks in the dark. When Rebecca left home she thought she left her childhood fears behind. Growing up, she never was never really sure what was and wasn’t real when the lights went out…and now her little brother, Martin, is experiencing the same. ~ New Line Cinema, Warner Bros.
The story is simple, revolving around family and hidden secrets. Occasionally Lights Out feels it has to over-explain itself, but it never becomes burdensome or slow. With the help of screenwriter Eric Heisserer, Sandberg stays true to the no-frills approach of the short, using the story as the vehicle to get us from scare to scare.
Teresa Palmer plays the lead, Rebecca. Cast as her mother is Maria Bello, and the chemistry between the two is palpable. Little Martin is played by Gabriel Bateman, and he is more than convincing as a sweet little boy who loves his family and is incredibly terrified by what goes on when the lights go out. Like the rest of the film, the cast is small, but effective and efficient. A small appearance by the woman who starred in the short (Lotta Losten) was a great touch, and really showed that Lights Out hasn’t forgotten its modest start.
Our terrifying, ghostly creature is called Diana, and she is a nimble, chilling little thing. She crawls the walls, leaps, crouches, and whips her head around in fantastic ways that leave you with goosebumps. Seeing her jump out or creep around a corner never gets tiring because we never truly see all of her – remember, she only appears in the dark. Leaving a little mystery about what she looks like keeps her on-screen moments fresh. While the same tactic is used over and over to produce the scares, it’s the inventive ways we find our characters either in the dark or the light that maintains the scares.
Lights Out doesn’t try to be something it isn’t. It doesn’t go overboard with a huge, involved story; the scares are tried and true. Just when things seem to be getting a bit intense, Lights Out surprises us with some heroic moments and fits of laughter. Those little gems coupled with the straight-forward approach is what makes Lights Out a fun little movie, well deserving of the ticket price and an evening out of the summer heat.