Normally, when a movie is being hailed “the best horror movie” months before its theatrical debut, I wonder two things: is the movie that good, or does it just have a lot of big names and a great PR team. ‘Lights Out’ is one of those movies. Months before it opened in theaters the buzz was that it was going to be the best horror film of 2016. But is it?
Directed by David F. Sandberg and co-written by Eric Heiseerer, the film is based on the short film by the same name by Sandberg. With horror master James Wan producing the film, it had my attention from the moment it was announced (I am huge fan of Wan). Living in rural Georgia and the closest theater being over an hour’s drive away, I had to wait till ‘Lights Out’ was released on DVD to check it out. Last night, I finally had the chance to see it for myself.
First, let me start with the characters. The mentally disturbed mother was played by ‘The 5th Wave’ actress Maria Bello. While in the film she was friends with a dark entity, the human aspects of her role as a struggling mother was believable. There was so much potential for her role to go too over the top or under performed but she found the perfect balance.
Teresa Palmer plays the lead role of Rebecca, a young woman forced to step in to protect her little brother from the entity and from their mother’s illness. She was spot on with her reactions to the horror that she is forced to confront with her brother Martin (Gabriel Bateman). While Martin is suffering from sleep deprivation and living in fear of their mom’s strange friend Diana, the kid comes across as authentic. Rebecca’s boyfriend Bret (Alexander DiPersia) may be the most dedicated and understanding man on the planet. I can honestly say that each cast member did a fantastic job, including Billy Burke who played Rebecca’s stepfather. Alicia Vela-Bailey did an amazing job as the entity, Diana.
As for the story, I found it interesting and unique, and that combo is rare these days. It was both well written and executed, much like the original short film. In the back of my mind it set off that primal fear of what could be lurking in the dark. We all have that fear and have since caveman days. ‘Lights Out’ makes you wonder if you are truly safe, even if for only a moment and the ending had a nice twist that I didn’t see coming.
The special effects in the film were not overbearing. They never looked like some overly-done CGI bull, like you see in a lot of genre films. They allowed me to step out of reality and have a few moments of suspended disbelief so that I was pulled into the story. I even caught myself shouting at my TV a few times, yelling “It’s behind you!” and “Stay in the light you dumb ass!”. It’s not often that I get that consumed with a movie, I’ve seen too many and have become a bit jaded, so when a film pulls me in, I’m impressed.
So, is ‘Lights Out’ worth watching? I would say yes, very. I would definitely recommend it. I would also recommend that you watch it at night, in the dark. Luckily, you can now pick up your own copy in stores or order it from Netflix. Is ‘Lights Out’ the best horror film of 2016? I can’t answer that yet, there are still a few films I have not seen this year. I can say this, it is definitely in the top 5.