Wednesday, August 31, 2016
Rebecca left home as soon as she could because her mother was strange, abusive, and refused treatment for her mental illness. Now, her stepfather recently died and her mother's condition has worsened. She's called to her little brother's school because he's fallen asleep in class numerous times. After trying to reason with her mother, she takes the boy to her apartment where she's sees a dark figure in the shadows carving things in her floor. The memories as a child of her mother's imaginary friend Diana are real and she has to protect her little brother from her at all costs.
Lights Out starts out looking promising. The scenes at the mannequin warehouse are tense and creepy. However, having the lights go on and off with Diana appearing in the darkness gets old after the first couple of times. Because of Diana's aversion to it, light is used very purposefully in a variety of ways: candles, flashlights, neon signs, gunshots, car headlights, black light, and others. The gunshots were a particularly ingenious idea. Diana would disappear for the split second that the gun would flash and then reappear as soon as it was gone. I wish that attention to detail was present through the whole film. I grew frustrated that all of these characters had cell phones with perfectly good bright lights on them, but no one ever used them. Once, a character used the screen as a light, but it's so dim, why not use the flashlight on it?
The characters are much more interesting than I expected. I grew to like and respect Rebecca. Her chosen aesthetic of goth skulls and black clothing is a bit cliche and screams emo. I wrote her off early as attention seeking, but she really pulled through for her brother and her mother. When a CPS worker suggests that she would be an unfit guardian because of her style and the art she chose to have in her apartment, I was outraged for her. Her boyfriend Bret proved to also be way more endearing than I expected. As a love interest, he persevered in a cute way to establish them as a long-term couple. In many movies, this comes off as controlling and creepy, but he would ultimately stand by her side until she made the decision in her own time. He was also very understanding of her situation and went above and beyond to help her.
Rebecca's mother Sophie is incredibly frustrating because she doesn't see how toxic and deadly her relationship with Diana has always been. Diana is on obvious personification of mental illness and seeks to destroy anything that Sophie loves. She stood by for years while Diana mentally and physically abused both of her children. A few things annoyed me about Diana. She is a two dimensional character with one motivation. I was hoping for a heartbreaking backstory or at least some sort of sense that she's an actual person, but she was this way since childhood for no apparent reason. Diana is completely revealed near the end of the film and it would have been better if she was kept in shadow. Showing too much of the monster is never a good idea. Diana's rules never seem to be concrete. Sometimes she can make lights go out and sometimes she can't. Black light reveals her for some reason and keeps her from disappearing. Although she hates the light, she can sometimes grab people while she's fully in light. The ending is atrocious and the logic around it is dubious at best.
Lights Out demonstrates an interesting concepts, but has a lot of flaws that include inconsistent rules of their creature, revealing too much, ignoring ubiquitous technology, and everything about the ending. It was better than I was expecting, but my expectations were set pretty low. It's a typical PG-13 supernatural film that stays squarely within the conventions of its genre. I would say this is a good intro to horror, but seasoned fans will be bored and frustrated.
My rating: 2/5 fishmuffins