Wednesday, 24 August 2016


An uncommonly restrained studio horror movie, and all the better for it, but still a studio horror movie. One suspects that budget requirements engendered the refusal of all the bells and whistles that ruin so many such movies, forcing the filmmakers to rely more on artistic creativity than financial capacity, until one considers that the majority of those such movies were made for roughly the same amount as Lights Out. Though fallible itself, David F. Sandberg's adaptation of his 2013 short film sets forth some persuasive genre standards: 1) Concept and gimmickry should feed off one another. Don't employ one solely to augment the other. The horror ought to be an intrinsic element of the central choice of gimmick (this genre is practically predicated upon the existence of gimmicks, so get used to it), and vice versa. 2) Don't fuck with the formula. If you've concocted up plenty of good scares inside the house, concoct a few more. Don't leave the house. Don't escalate toward a chaotic climax - that's not scary, it's just silly. 3) Work with what we're already scared of. Silence and darkness aren't especially friendly states for us social, diurnal creatures. But nobody's born with an innate fear of men in hockey masks, or winged monster-men in cowboy hats. 4) Cast good actors. They're not necessarily expensive - Gabriel Bateman, Maria Bello and Teresa Palmer won't break the bank, but they'll serve as terrific vessels for the vital emotional investment from the audience. Lights Out follows those standards, and is the better movie for it. It makes mistakes too: revealing too much too soon, succumbing to pedestrian plotting, betraying the essential element of its concept for an easy out in the end. But after all, Lights Out remains a studio horror movie. And, as such, it's a most commendable effort.