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Lights Out Blu-ray Review

Lights Out (2016) movie poster Lights Out

Theatrical Release: July 22, 2016 / Running Time: 81 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: David F. Sandberg / Writers: Eric Heisserer (screenplay); David F. Sandberg (short film)

Cast: Teresa Palmer (Rebecca), Gabriel Bateman (Martin), Alexander DiPersia (Bret), Billy Burke (Paul), Maria Bello (Sophie), Alicia Vela-Bailey (Diana), Andi Osho (Emma), Rolando Boyce (Officer Brian Andrews), Maria Russell (Officer Gomez), Elizabeth Pan (Nurse), Lotta Losten (Esther), Amiah Miller (Young Rebecca), Ava Cantrell (Teen Diana), Emily Alyn Lind (Teen Sophie)

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The budgets may be rising for James Wan, who was at the helm of Furious 7, a sequel that cost nearly $200 million to make and grossed $1.5 billion worldwide. But there will always be a place in his heart and his schedule for economical horror, which describes most of his films, including Saw,
Insidious, and The Conjuring. Wan, whose second Conjuring movie generated plenty of profit over the summer despite an immodest for him $40 M price tag, is a producer on Lights Out, a horror film whose meager $5 million budget guaranteed it commercial success.

Lights Out is the feature debut of director David F. Sandberg, whose 3-minute 2013 short film of the same name is adapted by The Thing remaker and A Nightmare on Elm Street rebooter Eric Heisserer. The film establishes its premise quickly and effectively in a prologue that largely served as its teaser trailer. Paul (Billy Burke), some kind of executive at a garment company, has an hour of work left before coming home to his sick wife Sophie (Maria Bello) and their son Martin (Gabriel Bateman). But something is strange at the workplace: a shadowy figure appears when the lights are off and disappears when they come on.

Paul doesn't make it home or past the opening scene, but that shadowy figure does. It is a consoling otherworldly presence for the manic depressive Sophie and the stuff of nightmares for Martin, who can't sleep at home and keeps dozing off at school to the concern and intervention of child services. Martin's older sister, independent commitment phobe Rebecca (Teresa Palmer, with an American accent that comes and goes), takes the boy out of their mother's home to crash at her child-unfriendly apartment. Child services frowns upon that arrangement and the relocation does not prevent that shadowy figure, who we come to know as a storied ghost named Diana, from haunting Sophie's children.

"Lights Out" stars Teresa Palmer as Rebecca, a young woman whose mother dead friend haunts her and her brother.

Lights Out unfolds as a parade of jump scares built around the notion that the dark can be terrifying. How many different ways can you have light going out and Diana appearing?
The movie concocts as many scenarios as it can: dead lightbulbs, candles, flashlights, cell phones, black light, a fire, and, of course, a climactic power outage. There's very little intelligence and sophistication to this, a movie that opens with a shot of a streetlight. It nonetheless provoked nervous laughter and some cathartic snark from the engaged crowd at my packed theatrical screening.

Am I mistaken in thinking that Maria Bello was once a respected actress? Palmer has turned 30 without making that leap to stardom, though she continues to enjoy prominent steady work. As the boyfriend Rebecca is reluctant to label as such, Alexander DiPersia is the closest thing the film has to a scene stealer. This young Edgar Ramνrez doppelganger probably stands to benefit the most from this movie being seen and appreciated.

A boy (Gabriel Bateman) with a candle is surely in no danger at all in a movie called "Lights Out."

Seen and appreciated, it was. Buoyed by seemingly overwhelming positive reviews (its deceptive 77% Rotten Tomatoes approval rating elicits a Certified Fresh sticker on the Blu-ray's shrinkwrap), Lights Out became one of the surprise hits of summer, earning its budget back many times over with grosses of $67 million domestic and $148 M worldwide.

Too routine and minor to generate any feelings of disappointment, Lights Out takes its concept as far as it can, while feeling overstretched even at just 81 minutes including credits. The highlight for me was probably the random out-of-nowhere flashback establishing Rebecca as a '90s kid with a movie poster of Macaulay Culkin's Richie Rich on her wall. Good old Richie Rich.

Lights Out Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

2.40:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (Descriptive Video Service, French, Spanish, Portuguese)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: October 25, 2016
Suggested Retail Price: $29.98
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase
Also available on DVD ($28.98 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

On a technical level, Lights Out raises no concerns. The same is true of Warner's Blu-ray presentation. The 2.40:1 picture is sharp and vibrant, while the 5.1 DTS-HD master audio goes a long way to sell the scares, whether or not they succeed. French, Spanish, and Portuguese dubs and subtitles are offered, as are English SDH subtitles and a descriptive track for the visually impaired.

Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) gets tormented in her apartment in this alternate ending. A light switch and a creepy shadowy figure in the dark conveys what "Lights Out" is all about on the Blu-ray menu.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Lights Out is joined by three deleted scenes (12:55) on Blu-ray.
The first two are short and expository, but the third is a somewhat lengthy alternate ending, in which the Diana strikes while Martin is staying at Rebecca's apartment after she is granted foster parent status.

It is surprising and disappointing that the original short film on which this is based is not included here. I can't think of any good reason Sandberg would refuse to let it expand its audience here, even if it remains freely available on YouTube.

The disc opens with a trailer for The Accountant and a promo for 4K Ultra HD (a format Lights Out on which is not available). A couple of other trailers were on the disc but evidently not accessible by menu.

The main menu loops a score excerpt for some time over a static composite of two poster designs.

An insert supplying your Digital HD UltraViolet code is all that joins the plain blue-gray disc inside the unslipcovered eco-friendly keepcase.

"Lights Out" breaks out the black light in its blue-tinted climax.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Lights Out got overwhelmingly (though borderline) favorable reviews, but much like Tom Hanks during John Heard's product pitches in Big, I don't get it. This horror film has one idea it tries to squeeze more out of that it can and the result is something more annoying and risible than unsettling.

Warner's basic, Halloween-ready Blu-ray only reinforces what I would have said in any event, that this is strictly a rental for horror enthusiasts and I expect many of them entering with high expectations will be disappointed.

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Related Reviews:
Directed by Producer James Wan: The Conjuring • The Conjuring 2 • Insidious • Insidious: Chapter 2 • Death Sentence
Teresa Palmer: Warm Bodies • Knight of Cups • Parts Per Billion • Take Me Home Tonight • I Am Number Four • The Sorcerer's Apprentice
Maria Bello: The 5th Wave • McFarland, USA • The Company Men • Prisoners • Third Person • Grown Ups • Grown Ups 2
New to Disc: Into the Forest • The Neon Demon • Chopping Mall | 2016 Horror: The Boy • The Witch • 10 Cloverfield Lane
Horror: The Ring • Don't Be Afraid of the Dark • Halloween • Rosemary's Baby • Cujo

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Reviewed October 22, 2016.



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