Lights Out Plot Summary:
After the death of her stepfather, Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) discovers that her little brother Martin (Gabriel Bateman) is beginning to see the same terrifying woman in the dark that she saw as a young child. Together they have to figure out how to destroy her while staying safely in the light.
The Lights Out short film was both creative and frightening. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for the full length feature but, before I get into my criticism of the film, I would like to start with what I liked about it.
First off, I enjoyed some of the acting. Normally, when I cannot get into a film, a huge part of that is because the acting is terrible. This was not the case with Lights Out. From the very beginning with Lotta Losten, who was also in the short film, and Billy Burke, it was obvious that the casting was well done and it wasn’t going to be overacted. Gabriel Bateman is one of the better child actors I have seen in horror. It is so easy for child actors to act too much like an adult, which becomes old very quickly. Bateman was able to find the line between acting like a child and a kid who was just trying to be brave. With a better script, I believe Bateman could do wonders. Maria Bello was pretty good as Rebecca and Martin’s crazy mother, Sophie. I wish she would’ve been given more time to show her mental instability instead of us having to hear about most of it second hand from the other characters.
The best part of the movie, really, was Rebecca’s boyfriend Bret, played by Alexander DiPersia. When you first meet Bret, you are positive that he is going to be that loser, drug addict, sex crazed boyfriend that characters like Rebecca tend to have in horror films. I was pleasantly surprised that he ended up being a pretty decent guy. He went from being a minor character that was easily disposable to a better character that was easily disposable. Come to think of it, they really needed more Bret development.
Now is where I delve into what I didn’t like about the movie. To do so, I will have a give you a bit more of the plot so you can understand.
Sophie met Diana in a mental institution when they were children. Diana had a rare skin condition that would not allow her to be in any light or it would hurt and potentially kill her. Her only friend was Sophie, who was apparently convinced of this friendship only through Diana’s ability to get inside her head. In an experiment gone wrong, the doctors at the hospital accidently killed Diana. Years later, however, Sophie can still see and communicate with her only when she isn’t on her medication for depression. Anyone who tries to help Sophie get better is attacked and killed by Diana when the lights are out. If the lights should be turned on, however, Diana will disappear.
If any of this sounds familiar, it should. Back in 2003, a film called Darkness Falls was released. It involved a man who had an experience with The Tooth Fairy as a child that gave him severe psychological damage as an adult. When he is released from the mental institution, he returns home to find that The Tooth Fairy is still out there attacking people specifically a young boy who is being helped by his older sister. What is the only way to kill The Tooth Fairy, you might ask? That’s right, light! We have the older sister, the boyfriend and the little brother, we have them all obsessed with keeping the lights on and around them and we have the monster who’s skin burns when touched by any type of light. It was as if they stole the script completely.
You may also catch several pieces of the 2002 remake of The Ring throughout the film including the tapes Rebecca listens to of the doctor talking to Diana in the mental institution, the little girl with the hair over her face, and the ability to get into peoples heads and make them see things.
None of this should surprise me, seeing that James Wan was a producer on the film. If you have seen his films, you surely have noticed they all steal major, and noticeable, elements from other big horror films such as The Amityville Horror, Poltergeist, and The Sixth Sense. It should’ve been expected that he would be tied to another film that is unoriginal. If I didn’t know any better, I would’ve said Lights Out WAS a Wan film. It had all of the elements of one- the aforementioned stolen plot, the dark retro lighting, the female demonic villain and the lazy ending. Perhaps he had a larger hand in the film than is being revealed.
I wish I could say all of this was saved by the film actually being frightening. Sadly, it was not. The jump scares were lazy and predictable, the majority of which were shown in the trailer for the film. So, if you saw the trailer, there is no need to see the movie…you already have. The suspense wasn’t given enough time to build in order to instill true fear into the viewer before something scary could happen, cheapening the jump sure to follow. Perhaps next time they could steal from The Babadook and learn how suspense really works.
To put simply, Lights Out is 50% Darkness Falls, 50% The Ring and 100% unoriginal.