This is one film that will certainly have you reaching for the light switch
Sometimes even the strongest of friendships have their weaknesses.While his father is at work, young Martin is at home, about to go to sleep but something is lurking in the shadows and his mother, Sophie, is preoccupied having hushed conversations by herself in her darkened bedroom. As his mother descends further into a depressive state Martin (Gabriel Bateman) realises that the darkness holds something far more sinister and disturbing than just the simple idea of sleep. Weary from staying up all night within the safety of torchlight, Martin’s school work starts to be affected from his lack of nocturnal sleep. Unfortunately Sophie (Maria Bello) is clearly unable to fulfil her motherly duties.So it's left to older, half-sister Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) to take care of him when the school calls. Having moved out years ago, it’s fair to say the relationship between Rebecca and Sophie is more than a little strained. With the safety of her younger brother in jeopardy Rebecca is forced to take control of the situation despite her former carefree lifestyle, but whatever it is that’s hiding in the shadows, it isn’t confined to just Martin’s house. Desperate to keep her brother safe, and herself for that matter, Rebecca must return to the house she grew up in and face not only her mother but the strange presence that has taken hold of it.
With only a number of short films under his belt, director David F. Sandberg has done rather well with his first feature length film. There are of course your expected moments of predictability which are frequent within films of this genre and any fan of scary movies will be able to spot them a mile off. You’ve got your typical doors closing on their own and rattling of door knobs but that said, there are several unsuspected jumps which even got me, and I consider myself pretty hard to scare. As the title suggests, a majority of the film is shot in almost complete darkness which is exactly what you want from a scary film, constantly searching the frame trying to figure out where the scare is coming from. Sometimes this can get a bit tedious but with Lights Out it works well and aids in creating that tension and atmosphere you want to feel from a scary film.
The story itself is quite basic, with hardly any character development, and it is simplistic in it’s execution. And that is the beauty of it, the simplicity. Sandberg and his crew haven’t tried to give it all away, in fact the background story behind it all is left rather vague and not all the blanks are completely filled in but it all works. So many films try to give everything away which results in an anti-climatic ending and the thing behind all the bumps and jumps just ends up laughable. However, in Lights Out we only get glimpses and snapshots - only what you need to see to make the pieces fit together. Sure, some people might find this frustrating, but sometimes the less you know, the better. The bits of background information we do get is told through a series of flashbacks but it’s done in a subtle manner that fits the story as a whole and doesn’t feel out of place.
Lights Out doesn’t try too hard and doesn’t give too much away — and that’s where it succeeds
Playing the main lead is Teresa Palmer as Rebecca, an independent rock chick who is more than comfortable with her lifestyle. As I mentioned previously, there really isn’t much character development (there are a few scenes which suggest that history may be repeating itself) but Palmer, along with the rest of the cast, don’t let that affect the performances they give. Each character has a role in the progression of the story and they work cohesively together in bringing that story to life. Gabriel Bateman’s Martin is strong and resilient and is the glue that brings his sister and mother back together. Alexander DiPersia plays Bret, Rebecca’s sort of boyfriend in somewhat of a more supporting role but one that has just as much importance as the rest of the cast. Maria Bello is great as Sophie, slightly erratic and without a grip on what’s happening to her family in her own home.
Lights Out doesn’t waste any time faffing about and gets straight into it from the moment it starts and is extremely well paced throughout. Where a lot of films fail by trying to provide excessive backstory, Lights Out succeeds by keeping it to a minimum. The pacing and story build up delivers exactly what you want from a scary film. This is definitely one to watch in complete darkness with a good sound system to really intensify the atmosphere.
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