Filmmaker David F. Sandberg wowed audiences with his 2013 short “Lights Out” where it nearly won best picture at the ‘Bloody Cults Horror Challenge’ film festival, and at the urging of his wife and fans, turned it into a full length horror film in 2016.Sandberg gained directorial experience in the realm of fright with a bevy of short films, and most recently teaming up with James Wan to direct “Annabelle: Creation.” In “Lights Out,” Sandberg takes his own story; one that’s unique in plot and has the fortitude to carry the movie with a great balance of truly scary scenes and images.
The premise deals with a broken family. Mother Sophie (Maria Bello) and father Paul are separated, and their son Martin (Gabriel Bateman) lives through the typical tug-of-war battle for his affections. Estranged older sister Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) has left home, but maintains a close kinship with Martin.
An ambiguous shadow like ghoul begins stalking the family with one unusual twist – the creature can only seen and can only cause harm in dark settings, vanishing from view when hit by light.
At 81 minutes, “Lights Out” can’t be accused of being too long, and the scares are abundant and start right away with Paul (Billy Burke) working late one night at a mannequin filled factory. As if that weren’t chilling in itself, the ominous phantom makes its casual first appearance in one of many JFC moments.
Sandberg displays the scares in original fashion – a motion activated light switch in the factory that causes us to hold our breath in frantic anticipation for it to turn back on, or Rebecca’s apartment above a tattoo parlor where a flickering neon sign illuminates her room at night.
Model Teresa Palmer is jaw-dropping to behold, and does a capable, if not very good portrayal in the lead role of Rebecca, possessing the needed amenities of looks, drive, and stupidity at times to be a perfect horror leading lady. The rest of the cast is solid as role players, leaving the bulk of the screen time to Rebecca and the antagonistic demon.
“Lights Out” moves quickly, and the jump moments are plentiful. The scenes with the ghost are filled with psychological tension as characters discover that the only source of defense is for light to shine. David F. Sandberg joins James Wan as a fresh young face in the art of horror movie making and one can only hope he continues crafting such gems.
After watching the movie, check out the three-minute short that was the basis for the film. It will give you an appreciation for the makings of the full length movie, and a jump in your seat.
by – Matt DeCristo