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Film review: Lights Out - horror spawned by viral video comes with added family drama

Some creepy moments, passable monster effects, the occasional shock and a satisfying ending make this unpretentious supernatural thriller an engaging watch for teens and adults alike

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 August, 2016, 8:15am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 August, 2016, 8:15am

3/5 stars

Better than most teen supernatural thrillers, Lights Out plays its hand well and provides some creepy moments and the occasional all-out shock. The James Wan-produced film was made for a PG-13 audience in the United States, so it’s not too scary for older children. But some classy editing, which racks up the tension, along with the passable monster make-up effects, mean that adults will also find it an engaging watch.

When young Martin (Gabriel Bateman) tells his sister Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) that their mentally ill mother shares her life with a dangerous ghost, she knows to takes him seriously. While investigating her mother’s past, she finds evidence of a horrifying occurrence in a mental home. The vicious spook is definitely real – but how is it connected to the mother?

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Mental illness and horror films are hardly strange bedfellows, but though Lights Out offers nothing new in the story department, its attention to detail brings some flair and originality to the work. And while the characters never seem scared enough by the situations, refreshingly they always act rationally and try to work out solutions. There’s not a lot of screaming and pointless running around to fill time – it’s a tight script in which everything adds up.

Adapting from his own short film, Swedish director David Sandberg isn’t too ambitious, simply concentrating on making everything fit together seamlessly, and the strands come together for an unexpected and satisfying ending. The film could be read as a metaphor for mental illness, but it seems unlikely that Sandberg is intending to go that deep here.

Lights Out opens on August 18

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