Seven Gripes with Lights Out (2016)
Lights Out wants to be a movie that makes you afraid of the dark again.
It centers around a boy named Martin and his adult sister, Rebecca. They're half siblings. Sophie, their mother, struggles with depression. The trio is joined by Bret, Rebecca's boyfriend. The villainess, who only appears in the dark is Sophie's friend. Her name is Diana.
The movie doesn't make me afraid of the dark. Unimpressed I picked it apart. Here are the seven complaints I have with Lights Out. It stars Teresa Palmer, Gabriel Bateman, Maria Bello, and Alexander DiPersia. This is a spoiler review.
1. Opening Scene. The opening scene of this movie takes place at a warehouse that has an area filled with mannequins. This is where Paul, Martin's father, works. An uncommon place to work? Yes. Distracting? Sort of. Those mannequins are destined to be a bigger prop for Diana to spook Paul and the audience. Instead they’re only used for the establishing shot. What a waste. Furthermore, Paul has a video chat with Martin and states that he's currently working on helping Martin's mother leading one to believe that his work directly affects her depression. But it doesn't. There's not much meaning to why the filmmaker's chose this location.
Additionally, Paul dies in this scene, and it seems that later on in the film no one really cares how heinous his death is. They're sad about his death but not too concerned over the brutality of it. A killing of his nature should lead the characters to question what their dealing with in terms of a killer, whether he or she is the average murderer or not.
2. Slow Acknowledgement of Diana’s Existence. Eventually Rebecca, Martin, and Bret learn more about Diana. Still that's only after they acknowledge that she's real. It had a weak backstory, but somehow Diana got inside Sophie's head during childhood while they were both patients at a mental institution. Diana's there for a skin sensitivity to light. Sophie's there for depression.
Diana supposedly only comes around when Sophie’s depression worsens. It must have worsen in events pre-movie as Diana is there the entire time. Since she hates when Sophie seeks help of any kind to the point that she's willing to kill, how is she not always around? There’s also a wonder how Sophie can get and retain not one intimate relationship but two for so long with Diana literally in her shadows.
The characters might be too ignorant not to notice Diana. She does have a physical presence, at least some of the time, despite dying while receiving treatment. There’s a whole room devoted to her in the family home. It's always dark in there and features a cot in the corner with a picture of the two friends hanging overhead.
3. Too emotional. At one point Rebecca went to Martin's school because he keeps falling asleep in class. She ends up talking to a social worker who brings up Martin's home life. Rebecca takes this opportunity to inform the lady and anyone within ear shot that her own father abandoned the family. It still bothers her.
The pity for this family doesn't stop there. The writers no doubt wanted this abandonment to be the cause of Rebecca's commitment issues. She also has a strained relationship with her mother. There's a mild child custody battle between her and her mother over Martin. And with Sophie's depression slipping, that's another concern. Viewing this felt more like watching a creepy drama rather than a true horror movie.
4. Mother and Daughter duo. As hinted earlier, Sophie and Rebecca don't have a close relationship. But what they do have in common is that together they are the two worst women to be associated with in cinematic horror history since Sidney Prescott (Scream franchise). Seriously, you do not want to date, or even be around, either of them. At best you’re slung up like a yo-yo and violently thrown onto the ground by a seemingly invisible force while running in panic from a pitch black house in the name of love for a girlfriend who refuses to let you leave a single sock in her drawer and only becomes mildly more interested in you because she needs to use your car. At worst you mysteriously disappear as your child misses you, only to be found years later in your basement, all the while your lover arguably knows of your misfortune but moves on to the next fish in the sea anyways. This factor really doesn’t help their likability.
5. Finale Night Lights. Diana displays an ability to turn off light. The final night Rebecca and Bret suddenly think they can use some of the same light sources and maybe some new ones from around the house and Diana won't be able to stop them. There's nothing new or superior about their lamps, candles, and flashlights. Yet, they honestly think on a second round things will be different. Maybe she was somewhere laughing at their attempt because it does take Diana a while to blow them all off. Rebecca and Martin get locked in the basement, where they find a black light. It proves to be more useful than a regular light. But who keeps black light laying around?
6. Sophie's Solution. Sophie does find a way to rid her family of Diana's wrath. Diana is supposed to be only live through Sophie, so Sophie kills herself. There's an idea that Diana represents depression. And like many people with depression, Sophie decides that the only way to conquer it is to resort to suicide. She sacrifices her life for her children, adding to the movie’s already high emotional tone.
There’s one issue, though. It doesn't make sense how it worked for her. Someone else already tried suicide, and it didn't work for him. Perhaps one could argue that these same actions were performed under different circumstances. Diana did have different compositions during those two acts.
7. It wasn't scary. Sorry, Diana, but you don't scare me. I don’t know if I conveyed that enough. To get me to shiver you’re going to have to do more than terrify a little kid and a suppressed grieving widow.
The idea was so simple. After all, we've all been afraid of the dark at some point. Noises sound more threatening, and we sometimes see things that aren't there. Even as we fear less we still want to be certain of our surroundings. However, what's received with Lights Out is a story that's too emotional, lacked some developing, and missing the fear factor.