Film: “Lights Out”; Director: David F. Sandberg; Cast: Teresa Palmer, Gabriel Bateman, Alexander DiPersia, Maria Bello, Billy Burke and Alicia Vela-Bailey; Rating: *
Conceptualised from a similarly-titled three minute shot film, “Lights Out” is a horror film that never strays from its source material. With a simple, non-complicated premise, it often repeats the same primitive scares for most of its run time, making the entire exercise seem like an amateur and mundane attempt.
The narrative begins with Paul (Billy Burke) getting killed at his work place by an evil presence who manifests only in the dark. It is when Paul’s young son Martin (Gabriel Bateman) falls asleep in school, that we learn that this evil-being Diana is haunting Paul’s family.
To help Martin, the school authorities reach out to Rebecca (Teresa Palmer), his older half-sister. When Rebecca tries to protect her younger brother, we learn that their mother Sophie (Maria Bello), who suffers from psychiatric issues, is somehow connected to the spirit. How they succeed in setting themselves free from the spirit, forms the crux of the narrative.
The script written by Eric Heisserer, does not take the audience to an unreached territory. Nevertheless, it exploits the characters and plays with the fear of the dark, rather well at times and you only hope that the plot was much more complex and well-developed.
There are some nice character dynamics that work, especially between Rebecca and her mother, brother and her boyfriend Bret (Alexander DiPersia).
On the performance front, all the actors are brilliant. Their on screen energy is evident and palpable. Gabriel Bateman is adorable as Martin. It is heart-breaking to hear him say, “Are we going to die?”
Teresa Palmer and Alexander DiPersia are sincere and Maria Bello’s transition from a “crazy” mom to a possessed one is profound.
Great attention has been paid to the sound design and cinematography and it definitely pays off.
Unfortunately, the pace of the narrative, though languid, seems rushed and the result, is unsatisfying. For its 80 minute narrative, you feel that the film is not entirely finished.
Overall, David F. Sandberg’s feature directorial debut does seem more of a germ of an idea, than a fleshed out story.