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Lights Out Reinvents Classic Horror in a Fresh Way

By Brian Gallagher — July 21st, 2016

One thing I always look forward to when going to any horror movie, is seeing.... well, mostly hearing, how the audience reacts. While I love movies like The Witch, which is so engrossing and intense that you can hear a pin drop in the theater, I really adore movies that scare the s--t out of people, to the point where I can hear their reactions. For me, the more unusual and natural the reactions are a sign that this particular movie is quite effective, and the reactions I heard during Lights Out made it so much more fun, for me anyway. I'm not sure how much fun it was for the woman, who let out piercing shrieks every time a jump-scare moment happened and would rapidly stomp her feet on the ground like Thumper, but it was just one of many reasons why I loved Lights Out.

I didn't know anything about Lights Out until the first trailer debuted a few months ago, but I really enjoyed it. Like many low-budget movies (Lights Out was made for just $4.9 million), Lights Out was completely off my radar until that first trailer dropped, but the more and more I heard about it, the more I was looking forward to it. I only found out a few weeks ago that this was based on a supremely impressive short film by David F. Sandberg, who returned to direct this expanded version in his feature-film debut, and the more I learned about this movie, the more I wanted to love it. Thankfully, I did.

Like many of the best horror movies, Lights Out is rooted in a fairly simple and well-worn complex, with a family that is being tormented by a malevolent spirit beyond their control. On my way out of the theater, I heard someone compare Lights Out to the absolutely dreadful Darkness Falls, which is simultaneously fair and unfair. Both movies follow families battling evil spirits that thrive in the darkness. What they don't have in common is Lights Out is executed at a much, much higher level, with fantastic and innovative scares, with a much tighter script and direction.

Teresa Palmer stars as Rebecca, a young woman who has basically abandoned her family but now returns when her young brother Martin (Gabriel Bateman) becomes plagued by the same supernatural terrors that haunted her and drove her childhood fears. I can't say a whole lot more with delving into spoiler territory, but I thought it was quite inventive that this evil presence is so intrinsically tied to this family's matriarch Sophie (Maria Bello). Teresa Palmer delivers her best performance in years, with Gabriel Bateman showing that he could certainly be a young star in the making. While we don't see too much of Maria Bello's Sophie, her performance is spot on and she certainly makes the most of her screen time.

James Wan doesn't necessarily strike me as a filmmaker who will just put his name on anything, so seeing him on board as a producer speaks volumes to me. Eric Heisserer, who is certainly well-versed in the horror genre (Final Destination 5, The Thing reboot), crafts a wonderfully taut story that is largely straight-forward but throws you for quite a few loops here and there. David F. Sandberg turns in one hell of a feature-length debut, showing incredible precision from both technical and creative standpoints. Fans won't have to wait long for his follow-up either, since he is currently filming Annabelle 2, although after fans watch Lights Out this weekend, they very well may be chomping at the bit for Lights Out 2. Lights Out gives fans the perfect blend of indie sensibilities with top-notch production value for a phenomenal horror experience that may having you hesitating while reaching for the light switch at night.

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