Friday, 26 August 2016
Review: Lights Out
Cert: 15 / 81 mins / Dir. David F. Sandberg / Trailer
Act I: "What, me? Oh, I'm just working late and alone in a poorly-lit industrial unit full of mannequins on a deserted business-park. Yeah, I'm sure nothing could go wrong…"
A curiously late entry this far into the season for David Sandberg's Lights Out, this is a strict 'genre-flick'. Based on his short film by the same name, I have - to be brutally fair - seen vintage steam engines that were less mechanical. That's not to say it's an inherently bad film, but it feels like someone's done a paint-by-numbers horror movie, and just ended up using black for most of the colours, anyway. A surprisingly capable cast cruise through this tale of a traumatised woman and her mildly dysfunctional family, as they're plagued by a creature known as Diana, who exists only in the darkness and has a penchant for destroying the light.
This is a very efficiently made movie, but the scares are overly-telegraphed and the plot unfurls itself without building up the tension required for any kind of reveal (although at a lean 81 minutes, there really isn't time for holding anything back). As far as the writing goes, the screenplay uses mental illness and a primal fear of the dark as a clever analogy for mental illness and a primal fear of the dark. Yeah.
Act II: "Oh, I seem to have conveniently stumbled across an old filing-box full of photographs, case notes and an audio-recording of the time when our nemesis was a patient in a psychiatric unit. Well now that mystery's fully unravelled, I'm sure nothing could go wrong…"
Credit where it's completely due though, the premise of Lights Out means the film's budget is used excellently, with the most tense scenes relying on little more than lighting-states and acting. Because when your antagonist only appears in silhouette, you can achieve a hell of a lot with a hell of a little. The make-up box is broken out for the climactic showdown, but the film's earned it by that point. In fact, the fundamentals of lighting and acting are executed so well that it underlines how much they're propping up the pick'n'mix screenplay.
Teresa Palmer heads up the cast as a Movie Metaller*1 who has to deal with the recurring trauma of her mother and protection of her younger brother, played by Gabriel Bateman (who's still young enough to play all this shit with a straight face and not look bored with his lines, unlike the rest of the cast). Still, it's no relief to realise that after two thudding Silent Hill movies, Maria Bello's role in Lights Out as the scared/bewildered/psychotic mother means that her career hasn't moved on a single iota.
Act III: "Well, I guess I'll just have to venture alone down into this cellar to restore the power and lighting we so desperately need. I have a completely non-brittle UV tube with me though, so I'm sure nothing could go wrong…"
I think my favourite aspect is that a character dies in the first five minutes (a character who knows the film's three central characters and is shown to be in regular contact with at least one of them), and nobody even notices until about two minutes before the end. Which in plot-time is about two whole days.
Bulletproof, Dave; bulletproof…
All Of The Horror™.
I should hope not.
Level 2: Lights Out features Andi Osho, who appeared in three episodes of Holby City back in 2012 which also starred Hugh 'Panaka' Quarshie.
*1 The kind of Metaller who's Demonstrably Metal™ because she a) wears black-mesh tops, b) lives in a flat above a tattoo-parlour and c) has an Avenged Sevenfold poster blu-tacked at an unconventional angle in her largely mainstream flat. I think there's supposed to be some subtext that because she had some poorly-explained childhood trauma, this turned her All Metal™. But it's that kind of Metal™ where someone appears to have ram-raided Hot Topic before borrowing Trivium's greatest hits, rather than adopting any kind of alternative ethos at all…
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
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