Thursday, December 29, 2016

Lights Out

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching!  It's a bummer that no one said, "Lights Out, motherfucker" to the ghost in this movie.

Lights Out – 3 out of 5

No matter how old you get, we’ll always have a small fear of the dark.  The dark represents the unknown, the things we can’t see hidden from our view and the mystery of what is out there can be terrifying.  Sure, as you get older the darkness doesn’t quite freeze you in terror they way it might have when you were a kid but there’s still something inherently creepy about the dark.  Lights Out plays off that fear.

Here at Horrifying Scary Movie Locales and Nightmare Inducing Mannequin Storage
we will have needlessly dark locations for your movies and scary mannequins
to make you hate life!

After her stepfather is found dead after mysterious circumstances, Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) learns that her little brother (Gabriel Bateman) has been seeing a haunting figure hiding in the shadows.  When she tries to shield her brother from this fear and her mentally unstable mother (Maria Bello), she is shocked to discover that the figure is real and can only be kept at bay if they stay in the light.  Alongside the man she’s dating (Alexander DiPersia), Rebecca stays in her mother’s home to try and fight the angry spirit but is horrified to learn that shadow-dwelling monster is connected to her mother and even has been in her family since her childhood.

This kid has an intense stare.  I'm kinda surprise he couldn't just intimidate
the ghost.

Lights Out is an adaptation of a short of the same name (which you can watch here)You have probably already seen as it went viral a couple of years ago and hundreds of click bait websites stole the video (and gave no credit to the creator) and put it under headlines like “Scariest Video Ever” or “You Won’t Believe This Video” or whatever other click bait headline you always see.  The short is simple and very effective (although I find the end of it to be pretty silly) and shows that sometimes horror works endless better as a short.  It’s hard to stretch scary premises into feature length films without coming off as repetitive or like its dragging.  Hell, I’ve seen original horror films suffer from this and thought that they would have worked a lot better as a short (like It Follows.  I thought that movie was boring and would have been a lot better as a 15 minute short).  Lights Out definitely has some issues and isn’t quite as memorable as the short but it does utilize some neat tricks when it concerns light and shadow.

I'll be honest, if this happened to me I would run in the opposite direction and
not stop until I'm in the next state or die from exhaustion.  I'd rather the running
killed me than some shadow ghoul.

This movie doesn’t waste much time with development or reveals.  The film is not even an hour and a half but it ends up feeling like it is both perfectly utilizing its time while simultaneously moving too fast.  The reveals of who this ghost character is felt like it arrived too early in the film but, by the same token, the movie never feels like it is intentionally padding itself so it never really drags.  This is one of the film’s strongest aspects (even thought it's a bit dichotomous) that its presentation is 100% no nonsense so it’s never hampered by the shortcomings that hurt so many modern horror films and momentum never slows or comes to a halting stop.

I realized they're being terrorized but the longer you stare at her scared face
the funnier it becomes.

"Check out these high beams!"
I could have wrote some great one liners for this film!
(Great in my mind)
The film also plays excellently with light and shadow.  The ghouls’ attacks and the way the characters use various lighting apparatuses to stop her are really unique and pretty creative.  These moments, while never really scary or terrifying, are still very cool to witness and create some neat visual moments.  For example, there’s a part where the ghost attacks a cop and the officer tries to shoot her and you get to see her appear and disappear as the muzzle of the gun flashes.

Just goes to show you that this story needed a good shadow ghoul with a gun.

It's amazing that in 2016 we still see mental illness
played and portrayed the same way when we under-
stand it deeper than we used to.
The elements that harm the film stem mostly from the mother character and a lack of decent scares.  Like so many horror films that arrive in this era, there’s no real sense of atmosphere at play and the film doesn’t do much to put the viewer in the action.  Combine that were your run-of-the-mill jump scares and you have something that, in theory, looks no different than everything else that is released in the genre of horror.  The only reason this stands out is the unique visual moments I mentioned earlier.  Finally, the film is slowed down by the character of the mother.  She’s connected to the monster of the film (which is fine) but this connection isn’t developed or played upon well enough (especially considering how important their connection is during the final conflict) and the performance of Maria Bello isn’t too commanding.  This element of the film desperately needed a little more care and attention and it probably could have happened with only adding a small amount of time to the running length and done so without killing the momentum the plot has.

"I can fly!  Oh no wait, the ghoul just disappeared.  I can fall!"

Lights Out definitely offers up some cool visuals and, more importantly, never gets boring.  With the exception of Bello, the performances are good and the characters are developed well enough but the movie is bogged down by a lack of quality scares and horror atmosphere and some plot points that really needed some more care and development. 

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