Lights Out (2017)


We’ve all seen David F. Sandberg’s amazing horror short upon which this movie is based. James Wan then tapped the guy to covert and direct it to a full feature horror film. Well . . . full might be a little aggressive, because it clocks in at 82 minutes, but that’s still huge as it’s based on a 3 minute short. How well does the full film compare to the original? Well you’ll just have to scroll down to find out, but not before checking out the trailer below. Except don’t scroll down if you’re worried about spoilers. Those abound.

Reviewed by: Jack


Plot Synopsis

The movie opens on a gentleman working late in some sort of clothing factory (?). As all the other employees leave, he remarks on his wife’s mental troubles and then tries to finish out his day. But things quickly go south as he is stalked by a figure who is flitting from darkness to darkness and closing in fast. Eventually it catches up with him, kills him, and we end our cold open.

 Who me? I'm just looking for an OSHA rep. This lighting is not up to code.

Who me? I'm just looking for an OSHA rep. This lighting is not up to code.

Cut to the deceased wife’s house, where their young son is struggling. He falls asleep in class, and when his mom is otherwise disposed, the school and child services call on his adult sister to try and take care of him. But here’s the thing, she’s a goth and has smoked weed before, apparently making her a worse choice for this child than fucking foster care. To make matters worse, her otherwise supportive boyfriend is legitimately jealous and mad that she won’t let him move in, but still has the fucking audacity to take care of her struggling child brother.

 Don't you do it. Don't you go and support your family.

Don't you do it. Don't you go and support your family.

It turns out, the mom’s house is cursed, and there’s some kind of darkness monster--the one that killed the dad during the cold open. Through some clunky exposition, we learn that the mom met some light sensitive girl while growing up in a mental institution, and that something happened to that girl and she ghost-latched onto the mom and surfaces as a darkness monster when the mom has a psychotic break because . . . well reasons. They really don’t cover it all that well.

Eventually, the mom decides that the monster is tied to her, and so, to save her kids (troublingly seemingly from her depression) she shoots herself in the head and the monster dies. Yay?

What the Movie Does Right


Fucking scares. Adam F. Sandberg knows how to put a fucking scary scene together. He plays with light and darkness brilliantly, and builds tension that culminates terrifyingly in well-done jump scares. The composition of scenes is not something that Sandberg lost in the transition from short to longform.

What the Movie Does Wrong

Unfortunately, nearly everything else. The plot is nonsensical and close to non-existant. A lot of that is to be expected when converting a three minute short into an almost 90-minute feature, but this one loses a little something extra. It’s truly crazy. And they do not appear to have even settled on the rules for their monster. Sometimes it can clearly teleport between dark areas, whereas other times it makes loud and conspicuous footsteps and get stuck when confronted with light.

The side-plots are under-developed too, and smack of generic family drama with a poorly fleshed out boyfriend character that is sometimes supportive, sometimes troublingly backwards thinking, and sometimes just a fucking idiot (if you’ve seen the film, I’m wondering what his endgame was in leaving a fucking sock in her drawer).

This movie also has a lot of worrying things to say about depression. I’ve read interviews with Sandberg where he says he was trying to do a different thing and something got lost in translation, but jesus. What we end up with is a woman troubled by depression who legitimately fixes everything by killing herself. Yikes. All joking aside, that is not great, and never the right option. If you’re even starting considering that path, please just at least look at some of the stuff here: Yikes, that got real. Butts and stuff. And we’re back!

Ratings (1-10)

Story: 3 - Look. The story here isn’t good. They didn’t need much to string a bunch of scary scenes together, but they needed something different than this. God damn. Either come up with something better or be just way more vague.

World-Building / Immersion: 6 - As nonsensical as the story is, it’s well acted enough and well shot enough to keep you in it from start to finish. The short run time helps a lot with this as well.

Scare-Factor: 7 - This movie is scary. It’s not an atmospheric dread that makes you lose hope, but that doesn’t matter because you will be scared. And when you’re in bed the night after having watched this, you’ll be looking at the darkest corners wondering what’s there.

Effects (or Judicious Lack Thereof): 6 - This movie certainly isn’t doing anything special, but it doesn’t do a whole lot wrong either. Ultimately, the effects serve the film, and that’s what they’re there to do.

Overall: 6 - This movie is definitely worth a watch, if for no other reason than to get on the ground floor of the Sandberg train. When this guy gets confident or trusted enough to stick a good story and script to his beautiful shots, look the fuck out. That’s going somewhere.