‘Keep the lights out…’
David F. Sandberg captured the imagination of the internet when his short film Lights Out dropped in 2013. Expectations were high for a full length version and Sandberg mostly does a good job in turning a short film that is basically a gimmick into something deeper. The problem with Lights Out is that aside from it’s USP of a ghostly apparition that is only dangerous in the dark, the rest of the film is disappointingly unoriginal.
Sandberg’s feature length debut is basically The Babadook without the allegorical metaphor crossed with The Ring without the intensity. Whilst Lights Out is more than just a pale imitation of those films, it doesn’t stand on its own two feet enough to truly stand out. Having said that, despite the horror industry having a bit of a renaissance in recent years, there are still far more bad horror films coming out of Hollywood than good ones and Lights Out is definitely better than most. The back story is solid if familiar, Sandberg creates an atmosphere successfully and the antagonist is fully realized both conceptually and physically.
A better cast could perhaps have elevated Lights Out above its peers but despite the best efforts of a manic Maria Bello as the disturbed matriarch of the family, the rest of the cast is made up of attractive but forgettable actors who add little to what should be an emotionally draining story.
Lights Out 2 has already been green lit and Sandberg will be at the helm for Annabelle 2. With Lights Out, Sandberg has earned the right to have his next move watched with interest. Lights Out is a solid horror film, especially for a first time director, but it certainly isn’t ground breaking.