Film: Light’s Out.
Directed by: David F. Sandberg
Running Time: 81 min.
This is an American Horror film written by Eric Heisserer about a family haunted by a supernatural being. The film was based on the original 2013 short film of the same name created by the director and pretty much took the same premise from the short and applied it to a feature length running time.
So how does Sandberg’s debut stack up?
The cinematography was decent, with some great little transitions between shots and scenes here and there, and the lighting, with some particularly clever attention to detail with shadows to highlight the tension and sinisterisim of the darkness (even if it wasn’t the big baddy) was particularly clever.
The acting gets a bit of a nod for a few, such as Gabriel Bateman as Martin who pulled off what he could for his character with his child stoicism and terrified out of his little gourd combo without being annoying. And there was also Maria Bello as Sophie, who did a decent job of coming across as pitiable and mildly creepy at the same time.
Then of course there is the strongest element of the film, the scare.
Practically every 5 minutes there was a jump-scare (escalating in the end), and unlike many other movies or television shows out there, they weren’t all predominantly fake-outs. In fact, there was perhaps only one fake-out out in the entire film.
Each scare fulfilled on its promise of something outright scary or occasionally mildly creepy. It was its complete and utter focus on jump scare and lighting combination that carried the film, and made it surprisingly fun to watch.
This movie does unfortunately have a bushel of weak points that stick out regardless of the fun experience, weak points that popular sites like Rotten Tomatoes dubs as strong attributes: The Characters and the Story.
First are the characters:
This is not exactly a strong pool of dynamic personalities.
Most of the small pool of characters isn’t given enough of an identity, interaction or development in this film that you actually forget the name of most of them from time to time.
They rely on a few handful of moments in the film that could be attributed to the action or mood of a particular scene as needed, such as the boyfriend’s entertaining confrontation with the creature, the opening scene with minor characters Ester (Lotta Losten, who was from the original short) flicking the light switch, and Paul (Billy Burke) trying (and failing) to not be killed, and Martin’s apropos responses to Diane.
Speaking of Diane, she was creepy (when not under a blue light) and her movements were just the right amount tension building, but the antagonist suffers as a weak point as well as her backstory was half-arsed, a little implausible in parts even for a horror film, and the connection between her and Sophie was not given enough development.
The story itself was of course the other major weak point.
There was no overarching mystery or any other narrative hook to keep you gripped, with everything about the creature was summed up early on and floating undeveloped relationships such as the mother and daughter falling out never being expanded upon, and there was hardly enough chances for breath in the film for the necessary character developments.
When there were attempts at the actual story it read like the amateur writing found in the dollar digital bin at your local Amazon site.
What could have helped the story was a better written history between Sophie and Diane. In fact, it might have gone stronger if Diane was actually a mental projection of Sophie’s depression, or perhaps something she created to deal with the death of her friend, or a combination of both. The possibility to utilize this example was there in the vaguely explained connection between them.
You can tell the film’s origins from its short counterpart, as the elements that worked here were what made the short strong, and pretty much was the entirety of the short. But unfortunately, the attempt to translate the short into a feature, you do need a decent combination of story and characters outside of the scare element.
Though this could be read as utilizing the formula of the slasher film, which in the case of those films was very much about the present experience of the audience, appealing to the squirm, blood thirst, and gross-out with a lack of much story and purposeful blank slate characters to better facilitate the audience overlaying themselves into the experience.
In this case, if you replace the element of “Slasher” with jump scare, you would have something very similar, though whether this was the purpose of the film’s construction it’s hard to say.
Overall this was a movie that you watch in the dark with your friends once or twice and enjoy it for the scare, with a few decent character moments here and there and not much else.
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