Horror has to be the most subjective genre on the planet. When speaking about horror films released after the year 2000, it becomes a worry that every one of them will subject themselves to the tropes of jump scares or cliched demonic storytelling, that fans have seen a thousand times over. Thankfully, Lights Out, based on the very terrifying short film of the same name, is the one films this year that takes all of these tropes, embraces them, and uses all of them, while still delivering a very compelling human story. Based on the short film that is only a mere two minutes in length, it did seem risky from the start, that an 80 minute feature would be able to sustain such a simple premise. This should not be a worry of yours, because Lights Out is one of the best horror films of 2016.
Why It's So Effective
As stated, horror films these days do not have much substance, solely relying on the fact that young adults/teenagers will come with their friends to see something scary. It seems that great horror films are slim to none these days, but this film is definitely one of them. As a whole, the film does have a few issues, so I wouldn't exactly call it a great film, but it is as effective as you could possibly get with a premise like this.
Lights Out follows Rebecca (Teresa Palmer), her boyfriend Bret (Alexander DiPersia), and her younger brother Martin (Gabriel Bateman), as a demon-like creature lurks in the shadows of their home and apartment. Their mother serves as the possessed in this film, as her best childhood friend who passed away, is still with her in the dark. Terrorizing her family as each light goes out, suspense escalates throughout the film. Having a great scare every 10-20 minutes felt earned, and the compelling family dynamic in between was very well-realized. This is a horror film that has it all: Horror, suspense, drama, and pure entertainment for the horror junkies.
The Likeable Cast
One of the biggest issues with horror films today, is the lack of a great cast. When low-budget horror films are made and go straight to DVD or Netflix, they usually have some pretty bad talent. With a mere $5 million budget, Lights Out was able to cast some pretty talented and likable actors in these roles. In particular, I really enjoyed the performance of Bret by Alexander DiPersia. I did not know about this actor until the release of this film, and he did an applause-worthy job in my humble opinion. Teresa Palmer and Gabriel Bateman were also very believable as brother and sister, and when they worry about their mother, it is some pretty raw stuff. The cast held together this film like glue, and I was very impressed by that.
Is It Scary?
The best aspect of this film is easily the story surrounding the horror. What is happening with their mother and how the are responding to events of the past, all make this film feel grounded in reality. That being said, the film does have its share of terrifying moments. With the use of the "lights on, lights off" tropes in almost every scary moment, they are able to do it differently each time, making for a very unnerving experience. Sure, the characters make some dumb mistakes (the lights not being able to turn on is cliched), but in the end it just matters if it was effective, and this film is very, very effective.
My Overall Thoughts
Balancing story and horror in the best way possible throughout the entire duration of this film, the climax will put you right on the edge of your seat. Not knowing how this terror will stop, the finale actually brought me to tears. It has a very unexpected conclusion and I will not be forgetting it anytime soon. If you are looking for a solid horror flick to see this summer, I recommend Lights Out. If you are easily scared, that is OK because it is not insanely terrifying, but it is effective. The story is what really matters here, and the drama surrounding everyone. With great performances, a solid story, and some pretty solid scares, Lights Out is a good horror film. Yes, there are quite a few eye-rolling moments and a few cliched tropes, but if you are able to set those aside, this an enjoyable horror film.
Review By: KJ Proulx