Sometimes its right to be afraid of the dark…
In 2013, Swedish fella David F. Sandberg put together a no budget short for the Who’s There horror film challenge. He didn’t win or even come in the top three places. Then the short blew up online as one of the scariest things around and from there the story gets kind of insane.
Sandberg was contacted by legions of producers and ended up working with Lawrence Grey who brought on James Wan and enough of a budget to create a feature version of the short. And lo, Lights Out was born.
It’s a pretty amazing journey for Sandberg and his wife Lotta Losten who have now moved to LA, with the filmmaker getting ready to shoot Annabelle 2.
As for his first feature, Lights Out manages to build a bit of a story on the bare bones of the short which is mostly just to pad out the running time. Really what makes it work is the commitment to the main gimmick of something that literally lurks in the shadows.
And boy does Sandberg milk the idea in all manner of ways. Mostly they’re inventive or entertaining or just plain scary. But this isn’t just a series of jumps, there’s a measured sense of pacing, bringing parts of my audience to near hysterics by the final act.
Even when things threaten to go off the rails the competent cast keep it just about on track. Teresa Palmer enjoys a rare lead role here which is far from a distressed damsel and there’s a young kid played by Gabriel Bateman who isn’t the slightest bit annoying.
The hunk factor is added by the rather charming Alexander DiPersia and Billy Burke is perfectly acceptable in his part. Perhaps the only blip is Mario Bello- she’s a classy actress but doesn’t quite nail all of her scenes as the mother at the centre of the scares.
Then there’s the lurking spectre who is really the star of the show. It’s a very creepy ‘monster’- regardless of whether you care about the backstory or not.
At a spare 81 minutes, Light’s Out might just be one of the better horrors of the year, and one that actually manages to be inventive in what could have been a tired and overused concept.
I’m less interested in the already-gestating sequel but this one is sure to leave you pausing before you flip that switch in the dead of night.