“Lights Out” Wastes Exciting Concept With Lame Execution

By James Preston Poole

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Thanks, Hollywood—now we have yet another reason to be afraid of the dark!


Based on his 2013 short film of the same, “Lights Out” marks the Hollywood debut of director, David F. Sandberg. The story is intriguing enough: Free spirit Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) is suddenly brought back into her broken family life when her brother Martin (Gabriel Bateman) reports seeing a strange creature who only appears in the dark; A creature Rebecca instantly recognizes as her childhood aunt: Diana.


The situation only gets stranger when Rebecca’s possibly unstable mother Sophie (Maria Bello) starts to unveil a shared past with Diana. Unfortunately, the trailer tells viewers all they need to know about the film, because content-wise, “Lights Out” does the bare minimum.


Wow was this thing disappointing!


Producer James Wan (“The Conjuring” and “Insidious” franchises) consistently delivers unforgettable, eerie atmospheres with the motion pictures he directs, so I had hoped some of his magic would rub off on this one. After all, the concept gives the director a pretty large sandbox to play in.


Yet, aside from a few clever moments, Sandberg’s film relies on the same old tired tropes of horror that all of us are sick of seeing by now. You can practically map out the entire story from the first frame!


The performances, with the exception of a delightfully unhinged Maria Bello, are dead in the water. Teresa Palmer resembles a mannequin, Gabriel Bateman doesn’t break any child actor stereotypes and Alexander DiPersia’s turn as Rebecca’s pushy boyfriend Bret made me quite uncomfortable.


Even worse, Sandberg tries to inject this film with “deep” family drama that never reads as realistic, and isn’t entertaining enough to at least be melodramatic.


So how about the scares?


If you jump easily, you’re bound to have a pretty stressful time. If not? Well, there’s not much of an atmosphere here for you. Sorry.


Across the board, “Lights Out” reeks of mediocrity. I wish I could say horror films like this are harmless, but it seems like uninspiring flicks are the norm nowadays. We need a new innovation in horror, because if we have another “Lights Out,” the genre’s one bright light could go out forever.