Film Review by Fiore
Mario Bello is an amazingly seductive actress. She sizzles on screen with every scene. The make-up artists of LIGHTS OUT, Anthony Gordon and Koji Ohmura, do their utmost to transform the bella Bello into a haggard woman; a mother possessed of a demonic spirit. While she doesn’t transform, with gyrating head spewing green vomit like Linda Blair in THE EXORCIST, she does look maniacal enough to suggest you shouldn’t close your eyes nor turn your back.
LIGHTS OUT is another episode in the horror category under the tutelage of James Wan. He does not direct this film, serving only as an executive producer, but his signature trademarks from such films as THE CONJURING and ANNABELLE are quite evident here. LIGHTS OUT is a scary movie (without the Wayan Brothers).
The film opens with a demonic attack. No reason is given; just brutal, supernatural murder. As the story unfolds, a dysfunctional family appears to be the confluence of the demon’s activity. Bello is Sophie, the maternal head of the clan, who serves as a conduit for the demon. Of course, no one will admit to supernatural encounters, so Sophie’s rantings are shrugged off to mental and emotional disorders.
Teresa Baker plays Rebecca, Sophie’s daughter. She is, essentially, a drugged out slut. She bolted from her family when her father disappeared, just when they needed her most; a fine example of Millennial thought; concentrating on one’s own needs, rather than the needs of loved ones. There is a fine cultural paradox presented here as Rebecca constantly refuses the invitation of a commitment in a relationship with her boyfriend Bret, played by Alexander DiPersia. He wants the commitment; she wants the perks of a relationship without the commitment. My, the feminist movement certainly has brought our society full circle. This is total role reversal from the previous cultural norm, but when men did it, they were “pigs”. Congratulations, ladies, in learning to be “pigs”.
Rebecca is forced to confront her family, especially her step-brother martin, played by Gabriel Bateman when Child Services are called due to Martin’s inability to sleep. It’s not long before Rebecca finds herself at odds with CYS and the demon, as she is forced to waylay her own gratuitous lifestyle to save her family.
KEY SCENES TO LOOK FOR:
1. The opening attack in the warehouse
2. Under the bed
3. Bret runs away.
Editors Michel Aller and Kirk M. Morri should be given a standing ovation for their work on LIGHTS OUT. The movie is the perfect length of 90 minutes. It quickly establishes the demonic entity and then sets up the conflict. There is no excess; set-up, and then straight into the spooky stuff.
The demon, played by Alicia Vela-Bailey (obviously the demon due to her being one of the dreaded three name people), can only be seen in the dark. That sounds like a paradox, but it makes for pretty clever camera work from Cinematographer Marc Spicer. The scenes where the police are shooting at the demon are particularly worth noting as the creature disappears during the gun flash and reappears immediately afterwards.
Director David F. Sandberg crafts a fine horror tale. No misunderstood spirits; no ghosts coming back to right a wrong. This is one nasty demon intent on wiping out a family and all who try to help them. Sandberg borrows a few scenes. For example, the police in the kitchen sequence is lifted, almost verbatim from THE CONJURING 2; but since both are in the Wan warehouse, the overlap is understandable.
When a horror film has a good scare, audiences generally follow the gasps, with a nervous laugh. There were many such laughs during the screening of LIGHTS OUT. There is also a standard cache of clichés: the flashlight batteries dying at the most inconvenient time; the need to go down into the dark cellar; the monster under the bed; and the old bathroom mirror ploy. In addition, martin’s father, played by Billy Burke, works in a warehouse with mannequins! Need I say more?
I for one am glad to see horror films returning to the true horror genre and leaving behind the slasher films that so dominated for decades. THE CONJURING 2 earlier this year provided decent bumps in the night. Now LIGHTS OUT is another in a continuing flow of horror movies that highlight good and evil in a supernatural context. LIGHTS OUT is a good one. Short, sweet and spooky.
THE GRADE FOR LIGHTS OUT = B