David Sandberg has made the most of his opportunity to turn his viral short into a surprisingly deep horror movie
Lights Out follows a broken family trying to deal with their mother’s depression while being attacked by a dark creature that can only come out in the dark. David Sandberg’s short took the internet by storm and scared lots of people. He has now been given the opportunity to turn his premise into a full feature length movie.
The strength of this little horror movie comes from its well-developed characters. From the little kid to the boyfriend, every character has their purpose and place in the movie so much so that the viewer starts to care about said characters. Motives are given, back stories are given and they aren’t completely stupid. The actions done would probably resemble your average person in that particular situation. When things happen to the characters, the audience can’t feel anything but sadness. As the movie progresses, the characters just continue to build and that is a rare occurrence in horror today.
A lot of this is due to some very good writing, which helps elevate the movie from same trash to good horror. Despite the gimmicky ‘lights turn off for no reason’ trope, Lights Out finds some decent ways to keep the story going. Not only is it refreshing, but it’s a mark of great film making. You can tell that there has been some time devoted to making this movie. Turning the short film to a full movie could have been a big disaster, but the team’s commitment does shine. They added just the right stuff and dodge the many things that could’ve gone wrong. Bottom line, it’s not a cash grab in any way.
Any great horror movie has to have some effective scares and Sandberg’s first feature has some. Continuing the James Wan-esque jump scares, Sandberg is able to find a balance between modern and old school. Although not as effective as James Wan, he still manages to create some creepy scares. Where Sandberg could get better is suspense. He does create some decent amount of suspense, but never perfects it. Nonetheless, it does work for the most parts and still is effective.
Where the movie does fall is in comparison to The Babadook and The Conjuring, with both being better than Lights Out. Sandberg does borrow a lot from The Conjuring from his scares to his creature. However, the over-all movie does feel like The Babadook. The story at its core borrows lots from Jennifer Kent’s film. The problem isn’t that the stories are similar because you could find films similar to The Babadook as well. However, Lights Out never reaches the level of Babadook and that’s a problem. You can still find many differences between both films, but when you’re watching the short turned movie, it does cross your mind. James Wan did borrow lots from other movies, the only difference between Wan and Sandberg is that Wan perfected what he borrowed.
Lights Out is a rare horror movie where the horror is intertwined with the characters and the final product is effectively scary. It does borrow a lot from other better horror movies and it lacks a bit of suspense, but over-all the short turned movie is a success. Sandberg’s next project is Annabelle 2 and if Lights Out is any indication, he can maybe do wonders to the spin-off.
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Check out the short before seeing the movie: