“Be careful on your way out”
Original horror is something that we rarely come across nowadays. Three out of the five trailers I watched before ‘Lights Out’ at the cinema were for remakes/reimaginings/sequels of horror films. There’s ‘Rings,’ of the ‘Ring’ franchise (already a remake of a Japanese film!). There’s ‘Blair Witch,’ a wholly unnecessary remake of ‘The Blair Witch Project.’ There was a prequel/sequel to ‘Ouija.’ Nine times out of ten, horror remakes are terrible. In fact, I don’t think I have seen a great horror remake. That’s why I was excited for ‘Lights Out’: an intriguing concept for a horror. However, the execution left a lot to be desired. When the credits hit, I was struggling to remember what just happened throughout the film. Mediocre is perhaps the politest way to describe ‘Lights Out.’
Although the film is brief by today’s standards, coming in at 81 minutes, the concept feels stretched halfway through. The basic premise centres on an evil ghost who is allergic to light. If you’ve ever played ‘Alan Strange,’ it’s kind of like that. The light burns it! For reasons that are described throughout the film, the ghost haunts a family. We are introduced to the ghost and the concept in a rather brilliant opening scene. It’s taunt, tense, and a little scary. Apparently, it’s an extended version of the short film upon which ‘Lights Out’ is based on. And I bet that short film is a whole lot scarier than ‘Lights Out.’
“Did we wake you?”
Apart from a few bump ‘n’ jump scares, however, the horror fades slowly from that point. There are moments of menace, but few that will linger in the mind. Spurts of exposition bring things to a halt, as the origin of the evil ghost is revealed thanks to a convenient filing cabinet. In horror films, suspension of disbelief is taken for granted, but some parts of the origins are questionable to say the least. Not only that, but discovering the roots of an evil during a horror film often undermines the horror itself, which is the case in this film. Why not leave it ambiguous? Or at least explain the origin in a way that avoids film-stuttering exposition!
Dull dialogue is not only confined to exposition; the main characters try their best, but the dialogue lets the down. The child actor, most of the time, is more than adequate, but the lines he is given are awful. It’s the same with the other characters. Apart from the name of the kid, Martin, I am clutching at straws to think of the names of anyone else. Was his elder sister called Theresa? Or was that the mother’s name? As an aside, the film’s depiction of depression is borderline offensive.
“Keep the lights out”
As I mentioned before, the concept is burned out less than halfway through the film. All sorts of lights are thrown into the mix to halt the ghost, but “scary” scenes morph into one another. The direction is sporadically inspired, which proves that the director has some potential. There’s one scene involving the spluttering neon light of a tattoo parlour sign which stands out above all the others. There are cutaways and intricate edits, but they only provide slight respite from the mediocrity of the rest of the film. Admittedly, I saw beginning to be drawn into the film before it ended in such an abrupt fashion that I wondered why anyone had bothered making the film.
Mediocre films leave me without a reason to review them. I tend to only review the good or bad ones. That’s why I saw ‘Jason Bourne’ but didn’t review it. It was just the same as the rest of the ‘Bourne’ franchise entries! With ‘Lights Out,’ however, I felt it necessary to write something about it. The horror genre is screaming for original films that actually terrify people. The deluge of remakes and sequels/prequels only morph that need into a cacophony of screams. ‘Lights Out’ could have silenced, or at least muffled, those screams. Unfortunately, it quickly runs its concept into the ground. Exposition, tepid dialogue, awkward pacing and an abrupt pacing ruin the potential of ‘Lights Out.’ We need more films that are willing to embrace original concepts, but they need a lot more effort…
VERDICT: 5/10. The concept behind ‘Lights Out’ is a breath of fresh air from the endless horror remakes/sequels/prequels that torture the horror genre. But the execution leaves a lot to be desired. Simply mediocre…
What did you think of ‘Lights Out’? Leave your thoughts/comments below!