Growing up we all had different fears at one time that shaped our childhood in some way. Those fears would keep you up at night and wondering what could be under the bed or in the closet. For me I remember it was the dark, for whatever reason I always had to have a light on or the door open to sleep at night. As I got older that fear went away and now I love the dark. Since this was a shared fear that plagued so many others, it was what gave scary movies that ability to heighten the fright level just by being in a dark place. So with that said the new film “Lights Out” seems to cut right to the chase and use the darkness as a plot point, is it enough to scare us though?
Sophie (Maria Bello) has not had a very good life it seems. She has already lost one husband, and another one didn’t have a very good day at work, since he was killed there. Sophie is left with Martin (Gabriel Bateman), who like most kids his age has a fear of the dark. Martin though has a reason as something lurks in the darkness in his house with only the light keeping him safe. If that wasn’t enough to keep you up at night, it seems Sophie knows the thing that hides in the darkness, as she too has had many sleepless nights, Martin is picked up by Rebecca (Teresa Palmer), who is Sophie’s daughter from her first husband. It is then that Rebecca recalls her own past, and with the help of her boyfriend tries to save Martin from the thing that lives in his house.
“Lights Out” came from the world of YouTube as it was released as a short in 2013. The short was shot in a way that was done really well for a three-minute film. Fast-forward three years and James Wan has made the short into a feature film. Director David F. Sandberg, who created the short, is on board as well, this time working from a script from Eric Heisserer (Final Destination 5). The film looks good, as Sandberg used as little CGI as possible, instead relying on light and practical effects to bring the screams. The problem is what worked so well in three minutes doesn’t seem to work when stretched out in feature length. The film suffers from having to explain things, as the reason behind the terror is told in order to fit in a convenient box, which includes a tape-recorded answer to all the questions. Having seen the short in 2013 I was looking forward to seeing what they could do with more time. They could have done something much more clever, instead the film feels like and hour and eighteen minutes too long. I really wanted to enjoy this, even though there were more than a few screams in the theater I saw it in; the scares too often went the easy route. I had such high hopes for this film, but just like I realized when I was younger, there really isn’t anything to fear once the lights go out.