Film review: LIGHTS OUT, ‘Built For Speed’

Lights out is a clichéd but tightly-directed horror film that makes very effective use of well-timed jump scares and better than average performances to create an entertaining spook-fest.

An extended trailer for this film was shown before The Conjuring 2 which may have given the impression that the two films were linked.  Apart from the fact that The Conjuring 2 director James Wan was one of the producers, there’s no connection between the two films.

Aussie Teresa Palmer stars as Rebecca, a young woman who has become estranged from her family following her father’s mysterious disappearance and disturbing childhood incidents involving her mentally unstable mother. When her younger brother Martin (Gabriel Bateman) notices what seem to be supernatural events surrounding their mother, he flees to big sister for help. Together they battle a malevolent force that has plagued their mother since childhood.

Lights Out is based on a short film from director David Sandberg and it shows. The limited plot is filled with repetitive demonic attacks many of which the recall scenes from films like Mama. Familiar as these sequences are, Sandberg still manages to infuse them with plenty of tension as the menacing demonic creature stalks Rebecca and Martin around a creepy old house. Lights Out doesn’t have the magnificently oppressive and menacing atmosphere of The Conjuring 2 but still manages to maintain a sense of threat throughout.

Palmer, who debuted so impressively 10 years ago in the powerful Australian film 2:37, is excellent here. Mixing toughness and vulnerability she makes an impressive heroine. She also has a convincing chemistry with young Gabriel Batemen and her maternal protectiveness of him is at times surprisingly moving. Impressively, the film underscores the horror with believable family drama through the conflict between Mother, daughter and son. Maria Bello delivers a performance that is both touching and unnerving as a woman confronting demons both physical and spiritual.

The film stumbles on a few occasions with some depressingly predictable moments such as the inevitable scene where people creep around the spooky basement and ridiculous sequences including one in which Rebecca’s listens to an unintentionally comical recording from a mental hospital that gives clues to the ghost’s origin.

This is hardly a revelatory piece of horror film-making but it’s often an entertainingly intense fright-fest.

Nick’s rating: ***1/2.

Genre: Horror.

Classification: M.

Director(s): David F. Sandberg.

Release date: 21st July 2016.

Running time: 81 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast.



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