2016. Directed by David F. Sandberg.
Based his popular short film, Sandberg's first feature film, Lights Out uses a menacing atmosphere and liberal applications of jump scare tactics to deliver a solid horror movie experience.
Martin is a young boy who resides with his mentally afflicted mother. His father has been recently killed and his older step sister, Rebecca, is estranged. Martin encounters his mother conversing with someone else, an apparition that only appears when the lights are out. Soon, Rebecca also begins to perceive the shadowy woman and realizes that both her and Martin are in mortal peril. With the aid of her well meaning boyfriend, Rebecca resolves to take Martin from her mother's custody, angering the vengeful ghost and leading to a horrific finale in which light, the only form of sanctuary, is in short supply.
Alicia Vela- Bailey stars as the spirit Diana. One of the things about Lights Out that makes it shine is how aggressive it is. Vela-Bailey's body work is fantastic, presenting Diana as evil incarnate without resorting to the usual stop/reverse motion techniques that plague supernatural films. Whenever she appears,the threat of violence is inevitable, keeping the viewer's pulse racing whenever the lights go out. This is achieved by Marc Spicer's tricky cinematography, amazing support from the lighting department, and Philip Beckner's slick film editing. Light's Out is a film that relies on what you can't see, and without these technical assets, it simply wouldn't work. But it does, and largely due to the film's simplicity that it outright refuses to overcome.
The amazing Maria Bello works with what little she has to portray the struggles of mental illness with great respect. Despite the film's cliched treatment of the child welfare system, Bello and her fellow cast members do an admirable job of depicting a family coming together in a crisis that is believable, even with the shallow personalities on display.
Eric Heisserer's script flirts with the concepts of motherhood and mental illness, but never preaches. The characters are extreme manifestations of their cores: The Rebel, The Child, The Demon, and the Broken Mother. The plot is predictable and serves as a vehicle to move the viewer from one lighting based terror to the next, taking all of the elements and throwing out at random so that the mood remains king.
Available now for digital rental, Lights Out is a horror that is so concerned with the next scare that it forgets to build empathy for the characters, choosing to focus on the frights, which are plentiful. Surface level to the extreme, Lights Out is a puddle (rather than ocean) of dread, and that's alright. Sometimes, the best scary movies are the ones that make you jump out of your seat, and what could be more appropriate for the Halloween season?