In 2013, David Sandberg made a 3-minute short movie called Lights Out. It featured his wife Lotta Losten, who when going to bed sees an eerie figure in the hallways as she turns off the light. Not sure, she flicks the lights back on to see nothing there. After a series of constant on and off, she freaks out and hides under the bed cover. I won’t spoil the end, for you can see it here. (Watch it in full screen with earphones!)
This movie short became so virally popular, it caught the attention of ace horror movie maker James Wan (Saw, Insidious, The Conjuring 1 and 2) and so now with the backing of a major movie studio, David Sandberg has made a full-length feature movie, which somehow surprisingly works.
We open up in a textile factory where the factory owner Paul is followed by the same eerie figure. As with all prologues in most horror movies, Paul ends up killed by this monster, in an effective set up.
The movie moves on to Rebecca (Paul’s step daughter) and Bret (Paul’s son) and his wife Sophie (who perhaps has a mental illness). Bret is staying with his mom and often finds her talking to someone in her bedroom. He is scared to be in that house as he sees a mysterious black figure in the darkness. After an unnerving incident, Bret shares his horrifying experience with his sister, who forces Bret to move in with her. She believes her brothers, as she recalls how she herself saw the very same monster in her childhood. Along with Rebecca’s somewhat of a doofus boyfriend, they all move back to their mom’s house.
Rest of the movie takes place in the house as they all confront this mysterious person, with some clever shots and an unexpected twist.
- The director makes brilliant use of the set up. We never get to see the black figure in it’s entirety, so the suspense is high. You certainly get the creeps and somewhat frustrated everytime the lights are swtiched on and off.
- Once scene in particular is rather fun to watch where the boyfriend is chased by the monster. The clever use of lights made the audience chuckle and gasp at the same time.
- The three characters are generally likeable and so you invest in them. They are decent people who look out for each other and believe each other. They are not the typical characters in horror movies who scream and bicker and fight with one another.
- It is the mother in the movie who has a problem, and not the kid as in most horror movies. This made for a rather interesting set up and could open up an entire discussion thread on mental illness.
The only issues I had with the movie was the somewhat silly back-story explaining the origins of the monster, but it’s not a huge distraction. Clearly the director is more interested in exploring how to keep the characters out of the darkness (including a unique UV light moment). Given the movie is only 1 hour 21 minutes, there were moments when it felt like the narrative is slowing down, but the something happens and you are back in the movie.
Having said that, Lights Out is an effective horror movie, and while it won’t creep you out, it will certainly bring a thought to your mind next time you switch off the lights and wonder if someone or something is hiding in the dark or under your bed.
I am certainly waiting to see what David Sandberg comes up with next.
3.5 out of 5