Warner Bros. and New Line had a winning streak over the summer with two fairly low budget (by studio standards) horror films. The Conjuring 2 cost $40 million to producer and earned a whopping $320 million worldwide. The studio followed that up with Lights Out, with a more modest $4.9 million which went on to earn $148 million worldwide. And the film was a hit for good reason … it’s pretty darned scary!
The story opens in a textile warehouse where two employees encounter something that only appears in the darkness. It doesn’t end well for either of them. That’s just a tease. The main part of the story focuses on Sophie, her son Martin and his sister Rebecca. Martin has been falling asleep at school because something in his house, that his mother seems to be talking to, keeps terrorizing him. Big sister Rebecca takes Martin to her apartment for the night, but CPS insists that she cannot do that after Sophie calls and reports her. But things escalate at Sophie’s home to a dangerous level, and the film keeps you on the edge of your seat as the entity becomes more threatening. I won’t ruin any of the story if you have yet to see the film.
Lights Out, in this viewer’s opinion, is even scarier than The Conjuring 2 and the newly released Ouija: Origin of Evil. The evil entity in Sophie’s home is truly a terrifying creation, and the effect of it appearing only when a light is turned off and then disappearing when the light is back on works to great effect, especially since it can still move while unseen, so you never know where it will be when the lights go out again. I usually chide a filmmaker who has to rely on EXTRA LOUD music and sound effects to jolt the audience, and this film is plenty guilty on that count … but it worked this time. I really didn’t mind it because the combination of that and the visuals made me jump, several times, and the entity itself is always only seen as a silhouette in the darkness (until we get a few glimpses of it under UV light near the end) with glowing eyes, making it even more terrifying. (And the fact that it is a real person and not just CGI effects also helps sell the terror.)
I also liked the whole family dynamic. It seemed very real with the alienated older daughter who suddenly feels she needs to protect her brother. Rebecca also has a boyfriend, Bret, who genuinely cares for her even though after eight months she’s still playing hard to get. And rather than pushing them apart, the whole experience brings them together. It was nice to see Bret not turn out to be a d-bag who fled when things got very rough. And both Rebecca and Martin did want to help their mother, but she is so attached to the entity (for reasons I can’t spoil) that she refuses to do what she needs to do to get rid of it. It’s almost like an addiction to her. The cast all do terrific work here.
The new Blu-ray release of the film is another great presentation from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. For a film that takes place mostly in low light or completely dark situations, it lives or dies on how dark the black levels are and the disk image beautifully captures that inky blackness with zero video artifacting. Colors are accurate and the film’s few bright scenes are never blown out, and the scenes that contain both pools of light and dark areas are well balanced. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track will also keep you on the edge of your seat employing sounds that go bump in the darkness across the soundscape of a good surround set-up. It definitely helps sell the scares.
As for bonus materials, this is the one place where the disk is lacking, including only a couple of deleted scenes. Of most interest is what appears to be the movie’s actual ending which, had it not been chopped leaving the film to end where it does now, would have probably doomed the film’s chances of being successful. Seeing this ending shows that someone somewhere actually put some thought into how it would affect the film. There is also another scene that actually may have been helpful to explain Rebecca’s father’s absence (she and Martin have different fathers) since she brings up his disappearance seemingly out of nowhere later in the film when confronting her mother about the entity. But that’s it for the special feature. Not even a trailer. And as the movie is based on a short film, it might have been nice to have included that as well.
That aside, Lights Out is a terrific, scary film that you can watch on Halloween or any time of the year you want to have some chills running up and down your spine.
WBHE generously provided Hotchka with a Blu-ray copy of the film for reviewing purposes.