Lights Out

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When I heard about the title of this movie, I thought of two music related things. The great solo album by Peter Wolf (J. Geils Band), and the forgotten hard-rock song by the band UFO called “Lights Out.” I’m going to have to go dig out that old record.

I also thought…this is the perfect premise for a horror film. When we’re kids, we’re all afraid of the dark. So…let the jump scares begin!

Nowadays, the studios all want that PG-13 rating. No sense making a violent R-rated film that most of their target audience can’t get into.

The premise is that there’s a ghost you can only see in the dark. They show you the silhouette when the lights are out, and it is creepy; although it’s now the third horror movie I’ve seen in the past few years that have used this visual, which looks a bit like The Babadook. The light goes on, nothing there. When the light goes out, that silhouette demon is even closer.

Throwing in a dysfunctional family always works, too. For the horror genre, that sets things up perfectly for why you might not confide in one family member, or why a child might not have a lot of friends at school, etc. etc. etc.

I’m baffled as to why the very talented Maria Bello (A History of Violence, The Cooler, Prisoners, Thank You For Smoking) agreed to star in it, unless it was a nice payday to do something different. She plays the wacky mom that is friends with the demon [isn’t that a Grateful Dead song?]. She opens the closet in the dark and has conversations with it. Hey…they should be on friendly terms. That demon helped get rid of her ex-husband. Who wouldn’t be friends with a ghost like that?

Her son Martin (Gabriel Bateman) is being scared by the thing, and his older half-sister Rebecca (Teresa Palmer), comes over to help him out. I’m not sure why they had her apartment filled with heavy metal posters. She’s not a 14-year-old boy. I guess that’s how filmmakers need to tell us she’s a rebel.

It’s also a little confusing as to why she is so distant from her boyfriend (Alexander DiPersia), who seems like a great guy.

A few of the set pieces work well for the goblin. The movie starts with the dad in a warehouse filled with mannequins. That was creepy enough, but when the demonic creature shows up at Rebecca’s…we realize just how cool that flashing neon sign is in the business below her.

First time director David Sandberg does a few things right, but I wish he wouldn’t have been the third director I’ve seen that’s created a ghost similar to The Babadook (Conjuring 2 just did that, too).

The movie needed a better script, and one that didn’t just give the answers in one quick scene involving a file cabinet and a tape recorder.

The film also needed a bigger variety in the kind of jump scares it uses.

This gets 1 star out of 5.