Lights Out

Directed by David F. Sandberg 

Starring: Teresa Palmer, Gabriel Bateman, and Maria Bello 

Rated PG-13

View the trailer here.

First things first: Lights Out was based on a short film of the same title that turned up on YouTube a few years ago.  Check it out here (the woman in the short is also in the feature).  While the whatnot that turns up in the short appears to some sort of goblin, the makers of the feature film chose to make instead what could have turned out to be just another of the current rash of PG-13 ghost stories.

Fortunately, Lights Out delivers.  It combines supernatural horror with a psychological premise, as a young woman, Rebecca (Palmer), realizes that her mother (Bello) is still involved with an apparently imaginary but nonetheless dangerous “friend” Diana, who only appears when the lights are out.  Diana's presence is now endangering Rebecca's kid brother Martin (Bateman).  As usual, the authorities are powerless to help, but not to interfere.  The story goes on to involve beloved horror movie tropes such as unearthing the dark secret of the past, digging through old medical records from the asylum, finding the hidden room in the basement, and discovering the photo that more-or-less shows the restless deceased person.

Good cast; good performances.  No cheap shots (no cat that jumps out and yowls).  A nice ambiguity about how real the phantom Diana is as a supernatural entity, and how much she’s a product of Mom’s own mental instability, or of the prescribed drugs she uses to control it.  No punches are pulled at the finale, which took me by surprise. 

Lights Out is a brisk 1 hour and 21 minutes long, so not a frame is wasted.  If you’re a horror fan, check it out.  If you’re not a horror fan, see it with somebody you want to clutch.

Lyndon Joslin