Monday, January 2, 2017

Lights Out

   Lights Out might just be my favorite current horror flick, right behind It Follows. I love horror movies that live up to their initial promise and precious few ever genuinely do. Lights Out is one of those precious few. The opening is creepy, and immediately offers up a really interesting concept married to some really cool visuals. The idea is simple, the monster in this movie lives in the darkness and will disappear when the lights are turned on. Such a simple idea, but a really fascinating one if used properly- and this movie uses it properly.

   A lesser cast and a lesser director with a weaker script would've taken the same promising concept and squandered it. It's so simple it easily could've gone either way. But director David F. Sandberg cranks out a really good movie here. Setting aside the creature stuff for a moment, Lights Out also features some refreshingly authentic characters. The main character is Rebecca (Teresa Palmer), a young woman who's roped back into dealing with her mentally unstable mother (Maria Bello) once her little brother, Martin (Gabriel Bateman) starts seeing a dark figure from Rebecca's own nightmarish childhood.

   Teresa Palmer and Gabriel Bateman have great chemistry as big sister/little brother, and Bateman's acting is surprisingly good- to the point where it doesn't even seem like he's acting. He's now one of the few child actors I can actually tolerate. Teresa Palmer similarly delivers an excellent performance, and she's easy on the eyes as well. I can't really think of any weak link in the cast. Even Rebecca's boyfriend, Bret, played by Alexander DiPersia is fun and never comes off as a stock character. His role could've easily descended into obnoxious cliche, but thankfully never does. His affection for Rebecca comes off as genuine and that's a big feat for a movie like this.

   When Bret's life was eventually in danger, I found myself seriously concerned- potentially upset even. I actually cared about this dude, and really didn't want him to die. Same goes for all the main characters, Rebecca and Martin have a relationship that could've easily been at home in a low key family drama about mental illness, but the presence of this creature and it's darkly intriguing origin heightens all the drama to a whole new level. Speaking of the creature, I'm very pleased with the backstory behind it. That's another make-or-break detail of a lot of horror movies, often the big reveal is a major fucking cop-out. The creature isn't real, or the mom isn't real, or someone isn't real. Or maybe it was all a fucking dream, or some bullshit like that.

   Lights Out doesn't take the stupid way out, and actually establishes a really neat origin story for the creature in the movie. Coupled with a really neat third act and a gripping climax, Lights Out is one to not miss. Not everyone is a fan of this movie though, and some have pointed out some inconsistencies but they really just minor nitpicks. As with any unique concept, short of a ten page list of rules, few movies have the time to fully explain every single thing the creature can or can't do. It Follows fell victim to the same thing, but I find that a more open minded viewer has less of a problem with these things and is more ready to fill in the blanks themselves.

   I personally loved the simplicity of Lights Out as well as it's clever visuals and creative light-play. From a blinking neon sign, to cell phone lights, and even a black light- it really runs the whole gamut with its idea, and then some. Combined with characters I actually cared about, and a really haunting creature, Lights Out is a lot of spooky fun.


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