In the last couple of years, we have seen some excellent horror movies that have used illnesses (both mental and psychical) as their underlying monster in the story being told. It was done to pure perfection in The Barbadook (2014), one of the scariest and best horror movies of the decade. Last years It Follows followed in the same foot steps, with equally as good results. Now we get Lights Out, a film that wants desperately to follow in the same vain as these films, but can’t seem to bring it all together in the end, ruining everything that came before it.
The film is about a young boy named Martin (Gabriel Bateman) who is having trouble sleeping and it is effecting his school time. His sister Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) is concerned when she gets a call from the school to come get him, because their mother Sophie (Maria Bello) doesn’t answer the calls. Martin tells Rebecca about “moms friend” that is scaring him so he can’t sleep. In the beginning of the film we see Martin’s dad and Rebecca’s step dad Paul (Billy Burke) being killed by a mysterious demon like creature. That same creature is what Martin is seeing as mom’s friend.
Sophie is known to have had a history with mental illness, always keeping her home dark as possible, so her friend can come to be, as the light burns her. This mental illness has effected both her kids in a deep and troubling way.
Lights Out starts out really well and actually develops characters who are both interesting and smart. They don’t often fall for the traps that you see in most horror movies. In fact there is one great scene were a character does everything he is suppose to do, to get away from his attacker and it is a breath of fresh air to see in a genre that usually allows its characters to just be stupid idiots, who are gonna get killed without little doubt.
Were Lights Out falls short though is in the scares department. There isn’t a single scene in the movie that makes you jump out of your seat, nor is the tension ever build, to make you grab on to the edge of your seat like it is in say The Conjuring 2. It is lacking something in this area and it really makes the movie kinda boring.
Though there is no excuse to explain the final act of this movie, that basically rips apart everything that it has built up to at this point. It goes for the classic over use of gore, over use of special effects and silly plot points that are laughable and take away from everything the film had been building towards its first two acts. It is almost like the directors had not idea what to do with the basic idea it set up, so it tossed together something, in hopes the audience would forget everything we have learned already.
We have been lucky to be part of a decade that has contained a series of great horror movie (at least one excellent one per year), Lights Out however will not be joining that list. It has the right intentions and ideas to have made a really effect horror movie. Everyone is afraid of the dark at some point and the idea of using depression as a monster is very clever. However poor execution and a dreadful third act, really sink this film. Its best to leave this one in the dark.