Expanding on his short film, director David F. Sandberg creates an effective, if small in scope, horror feature, ‘Lights Out.’ The movie works well due to a defined (and quite scary) concept, decent acting, and assured direction in a few contained set pieces. At a brisk 81 minutes, the movie wastes no time setting up the characters, the antagonist, and a placing them in a conflict that provides just the right amount of jump-scares and creepy imagery to sustain it through to a basically satisfying end.
Like most better slasher/creature horror, ‘Lights Out’ operates under a clear set of rules set up right from the opening scene. A menacing silhouetted female figure with stringy hair and long, talon-like fingers, with appropriately scratchy nails (think J-horror), can only be seen with the lights off, illuminated by ambient light. Direct light, either overhead, or directly shined upon the apparition render it no longer visible and powerless. It also starts to become apparent that there is some kind of personal connection to the players in the film.
The movie stars Teresa Palmer, as Rebecca, her pre-teen half-brother Martin (Gabriel Bateman), and their mother Sophie, played by a harried Maria Bello. Since these actors seem actively engaged in the story, they sell the conceit well, despite its’ real world ridiculousness. Imbuing their partially developed characters with sympathy creates a sense of urgency that sells the film overall. ‘Lights Out’ doesn’t reinvent the genre, convey any overlying complexity or meaning, or create a monster for the ages, but it does grab ahold of the audience for its’ scant runtime, as well as introduce a genre director with ability to frame a decent fright scene, and should appeal to horror fans looking for a solid scare . . .
Directed By: David F. Sandberg
Written By: Eric Heisserer
Running Time: 81 min.
* * ½ (out of 4 stars) -OR- B-