As a general rule it’s not the dark we’re afraid of, it’s the goblins and ghosts that may be lurking on the dark that terrify us. A new film from producer and horror meister James Wan takes advantage of our fears, unveiling the creepy crawlies that may or may not be shrouded in darkness.
Based on Swedish director David F. Sandberg’s acclaimed short film of the same name, the movie stars Teresa Palmer as Rebecca, a young woman who left home at a young age, disturbed by visions and her mother Sophie’s (Maria Bello) behaviour. Years later Rebecca returns home after a phone call from her half-brother Martin’s (Gabriel Bateman) school. Seems he’s been having a hard time staying awake in class and Rebecca fears the same spirit that plagued the family for years is tormenting him. “Every time I turn off the lights,” he says, “there’s this woman waiting in the shadows.”
The bloodthirsty supernatural form is Sophie’s childhood friend (Alicia Vela-Bailey) who had a skin condition that made her allergic to the light. “A long time ago I had a friend named Diana,” says Sophie, “and something really bad happened to her.” Sophie sees her as “a good friend” but Rebecca fears she is actually a malevolent spirit only visible in the dark. When the lights come on, she disappears. “Everyone is afraid of the dark,” says Rebecca, “and that’s what she feeds on.”
With her sanity and safety at risk, Rebecca must discover, once and for all, why Diana does bad things when the lights go out. “Each one of us is being haunted by this thing,” says Rebecca.
The light averse wraith is a cool, fresh idea for a movie bugaboo. The story, however, feels stretched to fill the 8eighty-one-minute running time. There are some good jump scares early on and a few low-fi but high wattage shocks in the final twenty minutes—Beware the flickering light!—but the lead up feels padded.
As it is “Lights Out” is a nicely performed ray of genre with a few story problems that will leave some audience members in the dark.