There's the usual danger sign with 'high concept,' especially when you're dealing with a viral two-minute Internet video being expanded to feature length. You may remember "Lights Out." The one where the scary ghost gets a little bit closer to you every time you turn the light off? That was the work of writer/director David F. Sandberg. So... why would we want over an hour of this one-shock premise?
Glad you asked. Sandberg himself didn't expand his story. The screenplay was left to Eric Heisserer. Hmm. He wrote the remake of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, which ought to be filed under "things you simply don't do." He also wrote the prequel to John Carpenter's THE THING, which people took for granted was a remake because it simply used the same title. Now, if you give that one a fair chance, you'll find that a lot of it actually works. Oh, and he also wrote FINAL DESTINATION 5, which proved that you actually COULD breathe fresh life into a done-to-death premise and make it entertaining again. So there you go. Meanwhile, Sandberg remained as the feature director, and he certainly knows how to say "boo."
Well, in THIS revamping, the ghost that only shows up when you switch off the light seems to be striking out on behalf of the extremely troubled wife and mother Sophie (Maria Bello). The nasty, clawed apparition puts paid to her husband before the title even hits the screen, leaving the (seemingly) schizophrenic woman in sole custody of her young son Martin (Gabriel Bateman). That doesn't sit well with Martin's older sister Rebecca (Teresa Palmer), who's already been abandoned by one father and moved away from home as soon as she was able--basically because she didn't want to deal with the family dynamic OR any other close personal commitment (much to the chagrin of her caring would-be boyfriend Billy Burke). Rationalizing that she owes it to her little brother to come to his rescue, Rebecca abruptly takes matter into her own hands and removes him from the care of their unstable mother... only to learn that things really aren't that simple. First, Child Protective Services makes it clear that there IS such a thing as legal custody--and that she doesn't have it. And second? The deadly, shadowy companion that Rebecca would like to THINK exists only in her mother's mind seems to have accompanied Martin home with her.
Sure, I could go on to give you the backstory of "Diana" and all that--but why should I go to that trouble when the movie itself allows you to use your imagination and refuses to overstay its welcome in the process? You want convincing, sympathetic acting? Go see LIGHTS OUT. You want jumps that work without hitting the hysteria ceiling every five minutes? Go see LIGHTS OUT. Want simple, effective HORROR? Go see LIGHTS OUT.
Just like that.
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