Lights Out

Movies, Horror
3 out of 5 stars
Lights Out

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

The central idea here is as durable and effective as a well-told fireside ghost story, but in the cold light of day, the film fades.

David F. Sandberg’s half-clever horror debut is based on a 2013 short of the same name—you can check it out on YouTube if you’d like a taste. But before you do, brace yourself for two things: First, make sure you have a high-wattage lamp handy. (You won’t want to be in the dark for any period of time—that’s when the sharp teeth come out.) Second, you’ll be wowed at what a director can do in two minutes.

Lights Out, much less effective as a padded-out feature, invents a creepy new way of building tension (not as easy as you might think in a done-to-death genre): The bedroom lights go out, and we notice a shadowy figure in the hallway. Click them back on and she’s gone. Off again: She’s back, staring right at you. On again: nothing. Off again…you don’t want to know how close she is.

Sandberg isn’t much of a storyteller, so he’s gotten Eric Heisserer, a screenwriter mainly known for reboots of other people’s material, to flesh out a generic family. There’s a psychologically unwell single mom (Maria Bello), her bold adult daughter (Teresa Palmer) and a younger son who’s clearly gotten little sleep (Gabriel Bateman). Once the film runs out of unusual lighting schemes to exploit (violet-hued goth black lighting, random blasts of car headlights, etc.), it loses power faster than a millennial with a long-overdue electric bill. But that one shadow lady is enough.

Follow Joshua Rothkopf on Twitter: @joshrothkopf

Details

Release details

Rated:
PG-13
Release date:
Friday July 22 2016
Duration:
81 mins

Cast and crew

Director:
David F. Sandberg
Screenwriter:
Eric Heisserer
Cast:
Teresa Palmer
Emily Alyn Lind
Alicia Vela-Bailey
Gabriel Bateman
Maria Bello

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