Lights Out (Movie Review)

Last Updated on August 5, 2021

PLOT: Big sister Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) must protect her little brother Martin (Gabriel Bateman) from a returned family curse: a nocturnal silhouette called Diana.

REVIEW: So what do you get when you pair a first time filmmaker with a remake/sequel scribe best known for abysmally bastardizing the ELM STREET remake? Well, with David F. Sandberg and Eric Heisserer, you get LIGHTS OUT, a laboriously stretched out short-to-feature bore I can only surmise is targeting the appeal of, at best, casual 10-12 year old horror fans. At worst, nobody at all. Truly, there isn't a single scary note in the entire 81 minutes of shrill PG-13 jump-fright that honest to goodness horror heads will viscerally encounter, or haven't already seen executed with much greater aplomb over the years, the most recent and far superior examples being INSIDIOUS and THE BABADOOK. This movie wishes it were of that quality, particularly the latter, yet doesn't even come close to that level of overall craftsmanship and storytelling. No, LIGHTS OUT is annoyingly bad, the kind that drew rousing laughter from the crowd during its most "thrilling" moments. Never a good sign. Blunter, the flick amounts to little more than a cut of insipidly rote, risibly platitudinous, noise pollutive pabulum. As the title suggests, there's nothing to see here!

The flick opens with call between father and son, Paul (Billy Burke) and Martin (Bateman), as the kid complains of being unable to sleep at night because of an unknown presence in his room. Soon the dad's secretary warns him of the same, and even before the title card flashes, a tall, eye-glowing silhouette that can only appear in darkness shows up and cold kills the sumbitch right there in his place of employ. We gloss over the funeral procession to meet mama Sophie (Maria Bello), a depressed, pill-popping schizoid who turns out to have a history as a certified mental patient. She talks to an invisible friend in their house, which prompts the arrival of older daughter Rebecca (Palmer) – a grungy metal-head type – and her musician boyfriend Brent (Alexander DiPersia) who she isn't too keen to get serious with. The two witness Sophie's escalating instability and agree to take Martin in with them for a few days. That'll help, right?

Of course not. The same growling shadow from before comes a calling, every time accompanied by a shrill, shrieking and overly strident clang of instrumentation as if to tell you when to be scared. I've seriously never heard such a deafening movie in all my life. And as we've already established, nothing ever truly rings terrifying here. It's kiddie fare. It turns out this not-so-menacing darkened ghoul was a friend of Sophie's in the mental institution she attended as a youngster. Her name is Diana (played by Alicia Vela-Bailey) and also used to torment Rebecca when she was about Martin's age. And now it's returned. The jinni disappears in light, is harmed by it, so only comes out in the nighttime. The SFX aren't particularly well rendered though, or even all that inspired (it's flesh burns in lamplight?), and tend to come off hiding much of the monster's facade as it looms in the darkness.

Worse yet, there came a point in the movie when I stopped and kept thinking, this can't be all, can it? A stupid silhouette chasing a young kid and his sister through each of their residences? Surely there must be a twist, right? And just when I started contemplating the various outcomes, I immediately landed on the one that proved truer than gravity. Now, that's to say nothing of my abilities as a seer (inabilities really), and everything about how blandly predictable and utterly unchallenging the script by Heisserer and the direction by Sandberg was able to yield this level of swill. It goes back to the films target demo, who on Earth over 12 years old won't be able to see how this movie resolves itself?

Look, not to be harsh, but in a summertime that's given us THE CONJURING 2, THE SHALLOWS, THE PURGE 3, and soon to be released DON'T BREATHE – LIGHTS OUT comes in woefully below the mark. It's stodgy, uninteresting, obviously foreshadowed and, perhaps most egregious, not at all frightening. But hey, with a no doubt a modest budget, it really doesn't matter does it? Warner Bros. will likely pocket a pretty penny and rush a sequel into production in no time. Sad, but probable. No matter, if you're a prideful horror head desirous of seeing a worthy genre joint in theaters this season, go see one of the flicks we mentioned above. As it is, LIGHTS OUT is a dim bulb indeed!

Lights Out



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Jake Dee is one of JoBlo’s most valued script writers, having written extensive, deep dives as a writer on WTF Happened to this Movie and it’s spin-off, WTF Really Happened to This Movie. In addition to video scripts, Jake has written news articles, movie reviews, book reviews, script reviews, set visits, Top 10 Lists (The Horror Ten Spot), Feature Articles The Test of Time and The Black Sheep, and more.