If you haven’t heard yet, Lights Out, is out. Directed by David F. Sandberg, Lights Out is a horror movie about a demonic entity that can only attack when the lights go out, but is much deeper than the plot suggests. The film begins in a shady warehouse, where Paul, a family man is approached by the mysterious figure, who we later find out is named Diana. Scary name, I know. It had been a while since the family had seen Diana, with Paul’s son, Martin meeting her for the first time just after that.
Not long before the movie starts, it becomes clear that the mother, Sophie is suffering from a mental illness, and her relationship with the demon explains it all. Diana is a personification of Sophie’s Schizophrenia – a ‘friend’ who had been with Sophie since she was a little girl, causing her to detach herself from the rest of the world and even become isolated in dark rooms so that Diana can stay with her, although it pushes everyone else away. Diana even manages to affect Sophie’s children, where Rebecca had finally escaped her childhood fears by moving out, leaving Martin to become the next target. Diana does what it takes to keep Sophie’s support away from her, so that she can grow stronger as Sophie becomes weaker, and from this we can see that Sophie has grown attached to her biggest fear, an illness that completely takes over her life. But hang on, if Diana was connected to Sophie in this way, it begs the question…Was Sophie the one attacking everyone, and we all just imagined Diana? But, let’s not get into that, it’s not all about the representation of Sophie’s mental state, it’s about the lights.
Lights On (Heh)
The lighting in the film was obviously going to be a key factor of what makes Lights Out so engaging, but it’s the variety of the lighting set ups that keep it that way throughout the film. While Diana is visually pretty much just a silhouetted figure who hides in the darkness, the other characters struggle to keep themselves in the light. They use instruments like lamps, torches or black lights; but that’s if the house lights don’t work, and chances are, when SHE’S around, they won’t. As you can tell, these characters will use literally anything to keep themselves away from Diana. In fact, the use of lighting motifs in the film almost become ridiculous, especially when Sophie casually watches an old film on her TV, and they mention the word ‘light’ a little too much, after the family were just talking about lights themselves. Okay, it’s not a big deal, BUT IT BUGGED ME.
If you’ve seen the movie, you’d know that the whole idea of it is that the characters can only see Diana when the lights are out, seen as a shadowy figure casted by light that creeps into the room. Up until one point in the movie, we see that Diana completely becomes invisible when the lights are turned back on, but we are still able to hear her knocking on the walls and walking into a dark closet, as if she is still in the room, but on another plane. Okay, makes sense. BUT WAIT! In the opening sequence of the film we first see Diana keeping herself from the light, because it seems that this would hurt her, and this is only really supported at the end of the film, when Diana tries to attack Rebecca in the light, AND WE CAN STILL SEE HER, AS HER HAND STARTS TO BURN. It’s either the light harms her, or she only turns invisible when they’re turned on. Pick one!
The trouble with writing for film, is finding a balance between not showing enough, and over exposition. Lights Out definitely needed to have some things explained, like the relationship between Diana and Sophie, and how Diana came to be the demon she is, *was…SPOILER. But it was moments like the one where Rebecca picks her little brother up from school and tells the school nurse the usual story of her father abandoning her, where we start to find out a little too much, too soon. We just met you Rebecca! That poor nurse did not sign up for that. And, they REALLY wanted us to see the connection between Rebecca and Martin, based on the 20 second long shot of the very obviously placed family photos back at the house. Rebecca was Martin’s older step sister, if you didn’t pick that one up when watching the film. You’re welcome.
The rating of the film really comes down to the writing in this case, with those plot holes and over explained details that just aren’t tweaked enough to put the film in my top Horror films list. Aside from the film’s flaws, Lights Out had the makings of a really strong horror film, with just enough family drama to not take away from the thrill, although it fell a little short at the end. And I mean short, it did end very suddenly. In terms of the horror in the film, I probably only jumped once, and that was for excitement that the film had ended. JOKE, it was good. No really. Overall it was an enjoyable film with some good editing and lighting that kept the suspense going in mostly dark and eerie scenes, as well as Maria Bello’s performance as Sophie which was compelling and fit the role of a suffering mother quite well.
6/10 – too many lights turned on, title is misleading
Lights Out 2016, motion picture, USA, Atomic Monster & Grey Matter Productions, David F. Sandberg
Gizmodo, Image, Lights Out Will Have You Running For The Light Switch, Hayley Williams, 20 July 2016, [Accessed 26 July 2016]: http://www.gizmodo.com.au/2016/07/lights-out-will-have-you-running-for-the-light-switch/
The Slanted, Image, Warner Bros releases a dark glimpse into “Lights Out” with a trailer, John Stewart, March 26 2016, [Accessed 24 July 2016]: http://theslanted.com/2016/03/22854/warner-bros-releases-dark-glimpse-lights-trailer/
Vox, Image, Lights Out is the brilliantly scary, surprisingly divisive movie you need to see, Todd VanDerWerff, July 23 2016, [Accessed 26 July 2016]: http://www.vox.com/2016/7/23/12255356/lights-out-review-spoilers