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Movie Review: #LightsOut

Lights Out is more rental fodder than a worthwhile theatrical scarefest.

Review by Erika Garcia-Santos

A mentally unstable mother’s deceased childhood friend brings itself back to life through a paranormal phenomenon that leaches off the mother’s illness. The mom, Sophie, has a dark past that includes her friend, Diana, whom she met while admitted to a mental hospital. Diana’s possession and obsession of Sophie bleeds through the afterlife into our world where she will do anything to keep Sophie all to herself. Diana’s reemergence puts Sophie’s children Rebecca and Martin’s lives danger because she is not afraid to get rid of anyone that steals Sophie’s attention.

Lights Out is an extension of Director David F. Sandberg’s short film, “Lights Out,” that was released in 2013 and originally was well received. However, this extended version itself is rather short coming in at under a 90-minute runtime. From the very beginning the viewer can tell they are in for a creepy ride, but what they do not anticipate is the low budget and poorly executed B-level horror flick that unfolds before them. The concept of the film is intriguing and there were several decent “gotcha” moments, but as the story progresses it unravels becoming more and more predictable.

In addition, the acting was terrible performed a mediocre list of C-list actors mainly due to the $5Million shoestring budget that could not afford even a B-list actor to the cast roster. Each character is overly dramatic in their performances including the main character Martin played a young Gabriel Bateman who comes across too wise for his years and eagerly accepting of his crazy mother’s behavior. The other main character Rebecca played by Teresa Palmer, not only looks like a knock-off low budget version of Kristen Stewart but does her best angsty, semi-punk impression of her. The only likeable character in the entire movie is Rebecca’s not-boyfriend-boyfriend Bret played by Alexander DiPersia because he is the smartest of the bunch and *SPOILER* actually goes to the authorities for help instead of trying to handle it himself.

On a positive note, it was refreshing and exciting to see so much of the supernatural spirit, Diana, that haunts Sophie and her family. She is surprisingly in many of the scenes, although you cannot see her in her entirety but unlike many other scary movies the villain/spirit/demon/ghosts are hidden from view so that the audience can come up with their own versions of what scares them to add the most fear and shock value. However, over time the audience becomes almost desensitized to Diana because even though moves in a creepy way and makes fast movements she really is not all that scary. Granted she is ruthless and deranged but by the main climax the main characters are so frustratingly gullible and not really trying to save themselves you almost root for her.

The movie has a handful of well-done cinematic moments that are thought out and executed but it does not make up for the bad acting, messy story, and predictable scares. Do yourself a favor and watch this when it comes out for rental probably just before Halloween. That way you won’t completely waste your money and it might just add to the creepiness-factor watching in your own dark house. Skip this during opening weekend and see Star Trek Beyond instead.

Lights Out is rated PG-13 for terror throughout, violence including disturbing images, some thematic material and brief drug content and has an 81-minute runtime.

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