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Film Review: Lights Out

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★★★★☆

As a horror fan, but by no means a horror expert, I like to think I can tell a decent horror from the swathes of God-awful efforts that hit our screens every year.

Lights Out, thankfully, is of the former category.

Although not an outstanding horror movie, and probably not one due to be hailed as a classic, Lights Out manages to entertain with plenty of jumpy-adrenalin sequences without relying too heavily on such scenes to carry the plot or keep the audience’s attention – and most refreshingly of all, without too much reliance on CGI.

The film jumps into the plot relatively quickly – and at only 1 hour and 21 minutes it’s just as well – but thankfully it doesn’t feel the need to over-explain what’s happening.

While some questions are left unanswered and this could potentially be considered a major criticism of the film, it’s quite refreshing to be thrown into the storyline without over-analysing it (when it’s a ghost child with a skin condition sporadically jumping out of dark nooks and crannies, logic plays little part anyway).

And it is our visceral fear of the dark that this film plays off, while introducing other horror tropes without making them feel cliché.

Starting in a gloomy mannequin factory and leading characters into basements and emerging from under the bed, as well as treading the whole ‘mental institutions are scary’ line, a number of scenes could be considered old-hat for horror fans but somehow Lights Out manages to introduce them without it feeling trite.

It feels a bit like a horror film made by a horror fan, for horror fans – the director (David F. Sandberg) manages to also flip certain clichés on their head; the rock-and-roll, bad-boy boyfriend spends the night in the haunted house downstairs alone (cue all audience members turning to their companions and making hand-across-the-throat gestures) but (spoiler alert) survives the ordeal, and in fact delivers some genuine comedic relief during a pretty harrowing chase sequence.

The candles used fail to get blown out as you would expect (meaning all the eye-rolls and tut-ing when they were lit were for nothing), and there are some more modern uses of light that while slightly gimmicky kept the ‘scared and in the dark’ theme fresh.

Of course no horror film would be complete without one character doing something to make the audience shout (internally of course, we don’t want to break The Code) ‘WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?’ – in Lights Out, this takes the form of the protagonist choosing a wind-up torch to light her way through the twists and turns of a large house at night and keep the ghost at bay. What ensues are some infuriating scenes where the screen is drenched in black because the torch runs out of juice. An amateur mistake when it comes to dodging ghouls.

All in all, the film is enjoyable and scary to boot, without dragging out unnecessary explanations as to precisely why there’s a ghost and relying on a real-life actress in a suit and some clever lighting (or non-lighting) to create a genuinely quite terrifying film.

It would be possible to read more into some of the underlying themes (mentions of abandonment and the importance of togetherness/family float throughout the dialogue) but it is, all-in-all, a pretty decent horror.

Lights Out is released in the UK 19th August.

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