Here we go again with things that go bump in the night. And I don’t mean the dust cart that wakes me up at 5.30am picking up all the zillions of bottles from the pub down the road.
Teresa Palmer stars Rebecca who comes face to face with an entity that is attached to their mother Sophie (Maria Bello) and is terrorising her little brother Martin (Gabriel Bateman). I’d like to tell you that there is more to it than that, but that really is it. As you see, the story could be written on the back of a postage stamp (admittedly in very small writing) and, though there are other actors in it, it is basically just a three-hander. So it is cheap to make, then, and lucrative if you get it right. No wonder there are so many of these kinds of movies.
Lights Out is a sporadically effective, sometimes scary, lightweight spook movie, easy on the brain. It’s a microwave easy meal type of movie. It doesn’t last too long in the memory, and, though enjoyable enough, doesn’t really stand out in a crowded market for this kind of film. The premise is very silly and unconvincing: lights on, you’re OK, can’t see the ghost; lights off and it can kill you. But, taken with a huge pinch of salt, it is OK for a fair fun ride. To be fair, it does get you to swallow your disbelief and enjoy the ride.
It’s a shame that the ending is on the weak and abrupt side, with a fairly lame explanation for the spooky goings-on and a pretty feeble climax. It is all much too pat and tidy. You can’t get rid of horror and terror so smoothly as this.
Not explaining the story at all would have been good, and a big, bloody climax would be better. But, alas, that is not what we get. Writer-director David F Sandberg wants to combine a lively horror movie with a classier ghost story and the two can’t quite mix. They exist in different genres. But he does have a very good try at making this work.
It is all very slick and smooth, with none of the rough edges that I quite like in a horror movie. There is no laughably bad dialogue, no risible acting and no intentional laughs either. It is all very serious as an exercise in terror, though ‘terror’ is pitching it way too high, ‘exercise in chills’ is about right.
Nevertheless, it is rated PG-13 for ‘terror throughout’, violence including disturbing images, some thematic material and brief drug content. But the PG-13 is the clue – it’s chills for teenagers. It’s got a 15 in the UK, by the way.
It is very short, at only 80 minutes, and feels a bit thin and flimsy, but it is eerie generally and scary particularly from time to time. If it seems like a slightly padded out short story, that is right because it is based on a short film by Sandberg.
James Wan has put his name to it as producer, and you feel that he has brought some of his slick style to it. And it ends up quite enjoyable and even oddly likeable, strangely so for a horror movie.
It seems they did get it right. On a $4,900,000 cost, it earned $61,100,000 at the US box office. Impressive, huh? Lights Out 2 will be with us before you can switch the light off.
© Derek Winnert 2016 Movie Review
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