My Favorite Movies – Lights Out (2016)

15 Apr

By Tanner Smith

You know, I sometimes don’t know right away whether or not a movie I see will become a “favorite.” Sometimes, I’ll see it and give it a positive review and want to see it again. And after a good amount of time, I’ll have seen it enough times so that when I’m reorganizing my DVD/Blu-Ray collection, I pick up that particular one and think to myself, “Yeah…I think this IS one of my favorite movies! Maybe not in the top 100 but top 200 maybe?”

Believe it or not, David F. Sandberg’s 2016 supernatural horror film “Lights Out” is one of those movies. Why? I’ll try to explain.

Based on Sandberg’s truly scary short film of the same name, “Lights Out” tells the story of a broken family trying to survive as a supernatural demonic entity haunts them–and the monster can only overpower you in the dark. In the light, you’re safe. In the dark, you’re doomed!

“The Babadook,” this is not. In fact, it’s a much simpler film than the complex “The Babadook”–but that’s part of what I like about it. “Lights Out” has the attitude of a mainstream horror film but a serious message about fighting depression underneath the surface.

The characters are all well-developed and interesting. Maria Bello delivers great work as Sophie, the mother of an adult daughter named Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) and a pre-teen son named Martin (Gabriel Bateman)–she has mental health issues that seem to be worsening and it worries little Martin as she seems to be talking to herself…or is she? Things get creepier when it becomes clearer to Martin that there is someone else with his mother–someone who told her to stop taking her medications because “she” can make everything better for Sophie. Martin can’t sleep at night because of what’s happening, so Rebecca, who has been estranged from Martin and Sophie for a while especially after her father mysteriously died (we see in a very creepy prologue, featuring Billy Burke as the father, how he died), now has to play a parental role to protect him as it seems things aren’t safe with Sophie as long as this thing is with her. When Rebecca learns of who/what this thing is, she and Martin learn they have to protect Sophie from it as well.

They feel like real people I can identify with. There’s another character worth mentioning because he’s my favorite in the whole film: Bret (Alexander DiPersia), Rebecca’s boyfriend. Any other horror film would have written this guy as your one-dimensional idiotic jerk who would be the first to die. But not only is Bret supportive, loyal, and resourceful–he lives!

“Lights Out” was made by someone who clearly loves horror movies enough to know when to break the rules and when to follow them, and like Mike Flanagan (the king of modern American horror these days), he puts atmosphere and character ahead of scares so that we care about who the scares are happening to.

Now, as for the ending…I was a little unsure about the ending because you could look at it many different ways. One way is that there’s a sacrifice from one character that had to be made to protect the others. Another way is to look at it as tragic that it had to happen. Another way is to think there were many other alternatives to this. Another way, the sickest way, is to say this ending promotes suicide, which I definitely don’t think is the case. There is an extended ending (seen on the film’s Blu-Ray) that doesn’t really work because it makes it seem pointless overall. Without giving it away, I think the ending works as a way of combining tragedy and the will to keep fighting because things are always going to be tough. Plus, it’s amazing I’m even thinking so hard about this for a horror film in which it’s destined that people die.

Whatever the case, I know David F. Sandberg worked really hard in making this more than just another mainstream supernatural horror film. He made a mainstream supernatural horror film that is truly about something. And it’s also given me inspiration in writing my own horror films these past couple years, so I know the film has had that effect on me.

My favorite scene: would it surprise anyone if I said it was the “cellphone scene?” Those who know the film know what I’m talking about.

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