Saturday, October 22, 2016

LIGHTS OUT (2016) (Blu-ray Review)

LIGHTS OUT (2016) 
Label: Warner Bros.
Release Date: October 25th 2016 
Region Code: A
Duration: PG-13 
Duration: 81 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.4:1) 
Director: David F. Sandberg
Cast: Teresa Palmer, Gabriel Bateman, Billy Burke, Alexander DiPersia, Maria Bello

When the David F. Sandberg directed the three-minute short Lights Out hit the internet in 2013 it went viral fast so I was not surprised when it was later announced it would be made into a feature length movie. That doesn't mean I had a lot of faith in it being any good though, as the short was a near perfect exercise in creepiness with a nice finish that left us wanting more. That's the problem though, when these three-minute masterpieces are stretched out into a feature length movie you never know what you're gonna get, except for maybe loads of unnecessary filler to pad the runtime. Thankfully Sandberg was announced to be directing the adaptation and he and screenwriter Eric Heisserer keep it simple, they've added in a back story, one that doesn't get fleshed out a whole bunch, but also doesn't make you feel too dumb for playing along, even when the rules they've set-up for out shadowy spectre seem somewhat fluid at times. 

Twenty-something Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) is estranged from her mother and younger brother Martin (Gabriel Bateman). Her mother  Sophie (Maria Bello) is a lifelong manic-depressive, which made life at home difficult. Rebecca's father ran of years ago, and at the start of the movie we see her second husband, Martin's father, killed by a shadowy apparition in a warehouse, a savage looking silhouette of a woman with long tangled hair and long sharp claws does him in.

With Martin dead Sophia stops using her psychiatric meds and falls into a deep depression, keeping to herself locked away in her dark room, speaking to an imaginary friend named Diana. Martin seeks the help of his sister Rebecca, who along with her new boyfriend Bret (Alexander DiPersia), arrive at the house and remove her neglected step-brother from the home. Back at her apartment Rebecca is attacked by the same supernatural spectre that killed Martin's father at the warehouse, but when she turns on the light the spectre disappears from sight, just like in the original short. 

This spectre turns out to be Sophia's imaginary friend, we learn that she met a woman named Diana years earlier at a psychiatric center while being treated for depression as a teen. The deeply troubled girl was aggressive and light sensitive, and apparently succumbed to a form of experimental light therapy while at the clinic. Now she has returned years later and Sophia and her kids are in danger, for the shadowy spectre is a jealous bitch. 

I liked the backstory, they give you just enough, it is done with broad strokes
and you sort of have to fill in the blanks, which I didn't mind much at all. What worked in the short works here, too. Scenes of the creepy silhouetted woman are tense and jolting, the effect of her disappearing work well and while it is done a lot there's no denying that it is a creepy effect. 

The movie logic as set-up by the movie establish that standard lighting simply makes her disappear while ultraviolet light makes her corporeal which allows for some measure of fight against the malevolent supernatural woman. As such the kids carry around candles, iPhone and flashlights to ward off her attacks, there's a fun scene of boyfriend Bret being attacked by Diana in the dark, just when it seems he's done for he uses his car fob to cast some light on the situation, I liked that bit of ingenuity.

The cast does fine work, I bought into each of the character, particularly Maria Bello as the troubled mom with a damaged psyche, fragile and seemingly hopeless at times, but she is protective mother when called upon. Boyfriend Bret seems like a standard issue dip shit but I came around to like him, and Palmer and Bateman are very good as the half-siblings, with the younger Bateman managing to not be too annoying at all, which surprised me. 

The movie has some nice moody lighting achieved through the use of natural light from candles and flashlights to create some creepy atmosphere, playing with light and shadow as you would expect of a movie titled Lights Out. Visually this is fun watch, about the only stuff that didn't work for me was the non-silhouetted corporeal form of the spectre bathed in UV light - I think this is a case of where less would have been more, in fact I liked the creepy smile of the spectre in the original short more than what we have here which was decidedly more witchy  in appearance. Part of Diana's back story involves a unique and terrible skin condition she was afflicted with which is built into her design, not awful but a sore spot for me. 

Audio/Video: Light's Out arrives on Blu-ray from Warner Bros. on October 25th, the image looks excellent, very crisp and finely detailed with nice shadow detail and deep black levels. Love the look of the naturally lighted scenes, swathes of green and purple look very striking, there are loads of fine detail in the image. The English DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio mic is top notch, with good atmospheric use of the surrounds, my dog was goings nuts with the creepy use of the rear channels.  The eerie and tense Benjamin Wallfisch score also sounds terrific. 

Extras on the disc include about fourteen minutes of deleted scenes, including an alternate climax which is a areal spook-shocker that is very different from the theatrical finale. I wish they would have included the original short and a commentary or making-of featurette, I would have loved to hear director Sandberg speak about making the short, the buzz it created and how that turned into a feature length movie, that was a missed opportunity. The Blu-ray also includes a Digital Copy with Ultraviolet.   

I wouldn't say that Lights Out is some sort of modern horror classic but it is a fun teen-friendly frightener with some good scares, an exceptional premise, and a suspenseful score which gave me the goose flesh more than once, which is above par for PG-13 horror. The Blu-ray and DVD come out from Warner Brother on October 25th.  

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