Directed by David F. Sandberg and produced by James Wan, 2016's Lights Out started, interestingly enough, as a three minute short film that Sandberg put up on YouTube. It proved quite popular and got him noticed by Wan and some of the suits at Warner Brothers. As such, the feature length version of Lights Out was born, and fans of horror pictures are all better off for it.
The story introduces us to a woman named Sophie (Maria Bello). She struggles with bi-polar disorder as she does her best to raise her son, Martin (Gabriel Bateman). A bizarre supernatural presence seems to have a connection to Martin, which causes him to stay up all night out of nothing but pure fear.
Martin's half-sister, Rebecca (Teresa Palmer), doesn't live at home anymore, not since her father took off years ago. Her relationship with Sophie is far from perfect, but once this entity starts making its presence known, she too becomes pulled into the plot. This would all seem to have something to do with the film's opening scene, where we see Paul (Billy Burke), Martin's father, killed while staying late at work one night, an eerie silhouette of a woman lingering in the warehouse. As things intensify, Sophia stops taking her medication and begins conversing with an imaginary friend she refers to as Diana (Alicia Vela-Bailey). When Rebecca tries to get Martin out of the house, things go from bad to worse. Although Rebecca learns that this spirit will vanish once the lights are turned on, there's more to this than that as the family's past quickly catches up with them.
This movie is slick, suspenseful and smart. The ‘lights on/off' aspect of the spirit's manifestations lend themselves well to the jump scares you know are coming but jump at anyway, while the plot is detailed and involving enough to make this more than a series of superficial surprises. The story is interesting, it pulls you in and it makes you want to know more about the characters and how their current and past situation(s) tie into what's happening with the ghost. Sandberg paces the move just right, letting us get to know the characters and to understand their origins just enough to tie things together really well by the time it's all over and done with. The script doesn't over explain things, however, allowing the right amount of mystery into the proceedings.
The cast does fine work here. Teresa Palmer and especially Gabriel Bateman are on the young side but they play their parts very well, we have no trouble buying either of them in their roles and they really sell it. Alicia Vela-Bailey is sufficiently creepy and even a little sympathetic as ‘Diana' but it's Maria Bello who makes the strongest impression here. Her character is clearly quite damaged, that's made obvious very early on in the film, but as she literally goes off her meds and starts experiencing increasingly unusual events, Bello's take on a woman being torn apart by things she cannot control becomes quite powerful.
On top of that, the effects employed in the picture are solid. The way that light is used in the film isn't just a gimmicky way to tell a ghost story, it also allows for some really impressive lighting. As the characters realize the effect that light has on the entity that is tormenting them, they wise up and carry different lights with them. This makes for some evocative moments of start contrast in the film, with our dimly lit characters moving about in the darkness, haunted by an impressive looking spirit.The Blu-ray
Lights Out arrives on Blu-ray from Warner Brothers in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 2.40.1 widescreen and all in all it looks excellent. Shot on digital video there are no problems with print damage whatsoever, while detail tends to be fantastic throughout. The close-up shots show very accurate looking skin tones, no waxiness at all, and you can note individual pores or strands of stubble. Texture is great, you can pick out spots in a coating of dust on a piece of furniture where something brushed up against it and left a trail and you can note the fibers in articles of clothing too. With much of this movie taking place indoors and in low light, it's refreshing to see shadow detail look as good as it does here, there weren't any noticeable instances of obvious compression artifacts . All in all, this is an excellent transfer.Sound:
The English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track on this disc is reference quality stuff. Bass response is strong and tight and used very well here, the low end of the mix springing to life when called for but never overpowering anything. Directional effects are frequent, even when they're sometimes subtle, and this helps a lot to really build some great atmosphere and tension. Dialogue remains crystal clear, even when a character whispers you'll have no trouble understanding things, and the various actors' voices have good weight and presence to them. This is great stuff, it's aggressive when it needs to be but just as often the rears are used for ambient and background effects to help put you in the house with the characters. Clever use of directional effects helps to make the film even more frightening than it would have been otherwise. Optional Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound tracks are provided in French, Spanish and Portuguese and removable subtitles are available in English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese.Extras:
Extras are pretty weak here. We get a few unrelated trailers that play before the main menu screens load and we get about fourteen minutes of deleted scenes, but that's it. The deleted scenes are marginally interesting as they give us a look at a completely deleted ending that was originally intended to accompany the film and it's quite interesting. No commentary or trailer for the feature itself, however, nor is the original short film included (which sees like an awfully big miss). Chapter selection is provided off of the main menu.Final Thoughts:
Lights Out is efficient, well made and unsettling. This is a genuinely good horror movie, more than just fleeting jump scares but legitimately unnerving in spots thanks to some interesting characters and chilling situations. It's quick with its pace but not at the expense of story or character development, and it's slick looking with great us of sound. Warner Brothers' Blu-ray release is light on extras but it looks and sounds great. Recommended.