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Lights Out Movie Review

Lights Out Blu-ray + Digital HD cover art
Lights Out is now available on home video. Read our review of the Blu-ray.

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 is still generating plenty of profit despite an immodest for him $40 M price tag, is a producer on Lights Out, a horror film whose meager $5 million budget guarantees 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 of 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.

Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) gets startled in "Lights Out."

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 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.

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.

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Related Reviews:
Lights Out (Blu-ray)
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
Now in Theaters: Ghostbusters | 2016 Horror: The Boy • The Witch • The Neon Demon • 10 Cloverfield Lane

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Reviewed July 22, 2016.

Text copyright 2016 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2016 Warner Bros. Pictures, New Line Cinema, Ratpac-Dune Entertainment, Grey Matter, Atomic Monster.
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