The Captain continues horror month with part 2 of his 4 part October series, this week reviewing Lights Out.
I forget which review it was… I want to say it was my review for It Follows, where I mention how just about every haunting or ghost type film nowadays follows the formula that The Ring set up.
Something strange happens, the main character investigates it… so on and so forth. But that’s not the story with Lights Out. All the investigating was already done for our main character. In a weird way it was kind of a relief, like oh, okay, that’s taken care of.
This movie wasn’t bad. It didn’t exactly get a fright out of me, but I could see some people getting creeped out by it at times (Hank).
To my surprise, Lights Out manages to skip over all your usual horror film clichés. Unlike say, the film The Darkness starring Kevin Bacon. In that it was almost like a checklist. Kid talks to ghost, no one believes the mom when she starts to see ghosts, and the dismissive Kevin Bacon husband character thinks it must be lady problems again. The list goes on and on. In other words, never see The Darkness.
Yes, there is a little kid in the film being haunted by a ghost. But unlike just about every damn one of these types of films he knows right away that this shit is not normal and it is something to be afraid of. In fact, it’s the mom that befriends the ghost.
Let’s get down to the plot.
The opening I thought it was really effective.
We are quickly introduced to Paul played by Billy Burke. He works at some creepy mannequin factory, which is spooky all on its own.
Paul is married to Sophie, played by Maria Bello. He is working late at his creepy ass workplace when he notices a figure in the darkness. The weird thing is, when the lights flip on, the figure vanishes. The building is rigged with these motion sensors that turn the lights on when it senses movement. So standing in the light won’t keep him safe for very long, making a mad dash back to his office.
One thing that felt like cheating was the fact our ghost which will later be known as Diana can mess with the lights, making them flicker, even killing the power. I know you got to give your baddy ghost the upper hand, but still.
So she rips Paul apart, killing him. Mainly because she cheated with the whole light thing.
Now we’re introduced to Rebecca, played by Teresa Palmer, who I’ll just call generic blonde actress. I mean, if I showed you a picture of her, Maika Monroe and the chick from Don’t Breathe Jane Levy, could you really tell either of them apart?
Rebecca has a boyfriend named Bret, who you just know is our dead meat character. The one character we know will die by the end. But guess what, he doesn’t. Another cliché avoided.
He and Rebecca are in a bit of an argument, they’ve been dating for at least a year and she still refuses to even call him her boyfriend, or let him stay the night or leave anything over at her place. She has serious commitment issues.
She later gets a call that her half-brother Martin has been falling asleep in class and the school can’t reach their mom to come get him. Rebecca comes to pick him up, but begging her the whole way not to take him back to that house.
When they get to their mom’s house, you can tell she is off her medicine, she isn’t taking her husband’s death too well. Martin even mentions she’s talking to someone in the house, her friend Diana.
Deciding it might be best she take her brother with her to stay a while, the two hang out at her place. That’s when Diana decides to visit them.
In a pretty effective scene, a tattoo parlor’s sign next door keeps twitching off and on as Diana carves her name into the floor. That’s kind of creepy, waking up to scratching and see this weird figure hunched over on the floor. The closest I ever had to that was when I heard this munching sound as I slept, waking up to find a slug chewing on the VHS box cover to my copy of Commando. Almost as scary as finding a ghost.
But instead of completely freaking out about having a ghost vandalize your floor and run at you, Rebecca just goes to the bathroom to calm herself, discovering her brother in the bathtub sleeping.
In the morning they get a visit from a social worker looking to take Martin back to his mom. Rebecca isn’t exactly the best person to be watching over this kid.
It’s never mentioned in the film, but you get a glimpse at her arms and notice that Rebecca must have been a cutter at one point. Unless this was a Miles Teller situation and those scars are real. It is weird that they’d show you her scars, but never mention them. Especially in a movie like this, where usually everything is spelled out for you. Like The Darkness where the daughter had an eating disorder and kept vomit in Tupperware under her bed.
After her brief encounter with Diana, Rebecca sneaks into her mom’s house while she is away. Which is kind of weird seeing as I don’t think she leaves the house anymore. But she and her boyfriend Bret take this brief moment to look around the house.
Rebecca looks through her old room, remembering when she was a kid and Diana showed up to mess with a picture she was drawing. She also sneaks into her stepdad’s office, discovering all this info on his wife’s ghost friend.
When Rebecca’s mom was young, her parent institutionalized her, that’s where she met Diana, a creepy girl that was found in the dark, with both her parents killed. She latches onto young Sophie, even harming her when it looks like she’s getting better and might leave the facility.
In kind of a weird event, the doctors strap Diana to a chair and blast her with light, turning her I guess into ash. Now years later, Diana keeps showing up when Sophie hasn’t been taking her medication.
So there’s a couple of things don’t really connect with me. It seems like Diana just wants the guys in Sophie’s life out of the way, but doesn’t mind the children. Or at least didn’t mind young Rebecca. And I’m not really sure if she was out to harm Martin or not. I think just the fact this creepy ghost lady was sneaking into his room is what freaked him out.
At one point Sophie wants to introduce Martin to Diana and she seems to be fine. Kind of invading his space a bit, but it didn’t really seem like she was going to harm him. But he freaks out, startling Diana, making her attack Sophie. I kind of look at it like the mom found this bengal tiger and to her it’s mostly calm because she feeds it, and she wants others to feed it but they’re too freaked out by it because it’s a damn bengal tiger.
And if Diana died as a little girl, why isn’t she still a little girl? She seems to be all grown up now, but how if she’s a ghost? Is she a ghost? I’m skipping a head a bit but Rebecca and Martin get led into the basement where they find what looks to be Diana’s living area. Really weird writing is everywhere and mannequins… what ghost needs her own mancave?
And why did light hurt her? They mention she has some kind of skin condition, but why would blasting her with light turn her to ash? I know the film is PG-13, so maybe she caught on fire or something and they just couldn’t show it. But it kind of looks like she just poofed.
Was she a vampire? They also mentioned it seemed like Diana got into young Sophie’s head, making her think they were friends. I just don’t know what Diana is supposed to be. I guess it doesn’t matter too much, I mean we never found out what the monster was that haunted people in It Follows.
It seems like Diana is a cross between Meat Cleaver Max from The Horror Show and Alma Wade from the F.E.A.R. videogames.
After coming to terms with the fact Diana is real, Rebecca and her boyfriend, also Martin, come over to have dinner with Sophie, trying to talk her into taking her medicine again. It doesn’t exactly go over so well, locking herself in her room.
Rebecca decides they should stay the night. Upset that Sophie is thinking about taking her pills again, Diana goes on a rampage, attacking Sophie, knocking her out, then after Bret, Rebecca’s boyfriend.
He gets away and calls the police. Finally, people in this film Diana can actually kill. Because besides the two cops and the husband at the beginning, nothing really happens. But again, the same argument could be said about the Conjuring films.
Their mom Sophie comes to the realization that the only thing keeping Diana around is her, so she takes one of the cop’s guns and kills herself. Ending Diana’s tantrums.
I liked this movie, I thought it had a pretty interesting concept, they stayed mostly away from clichés, which I enjoyed greatly, and the characters for the most part were all likeable. And unlike The Conjuring 2, it didn’t go on for like 3 hours.
So it gets a recommend from me, worth checking out on demand if you’re looking for something spooky, but not too spooky.