Lights Out (2016)

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For those of you that are unfamiliar with this movie, just watch this: The first short film that scared me so damn bad that I threw my phone at the wall.

2 years later, and that damn face still gives me the willies. Naturally, I was kind of excited when it was announced this was going to be made into a feature length film, with James Wan at the helm. For those that aren’t neck deep into the horror community like I am, he’s best known for giving us Saw, The Conjuring, and Insidious. With his film-making skills, I figured the film adaptation was bound to be really creepy, atmospheric,  and very well done. Boy, did I misjudge this one. Take a look at that poster. Whose name is first? What would you assume if you weren’t paying attention to the conveniently small print next to Wan’s name? Wan is a producer, not the director. The director is actually David F. Sandberg (look all the way at the bottom), who actually made the short film. The person that made the source material also made the movie…and somehow managed to completely drop the ball and royally screw it up. How is that even possible?

While I was watching this in theaters, I could not figure out what was so wrong with this. I remember watching it, being extremely bored, and trying to figure out why this felt like such a mess. Then it hit me: it’s the plot. Obviously, there’s no real plot in the short film, but it’s creepy enough that it works. The main issue with the movie is that out of all the plots that could be created, we have the one that’s so unnecessarily convoluted. Also, I’m 99% positive that Lights Out combined about 3-4 different plots from other movies. We have the mental deterioration of a parent due to a supernatural force (The Taking of Debra Logan), a childhood “friend” that has a mysterious disease early life and died a tragic death (pick one of the many movies that shares this plot), and a bond between a mother and her children that is strained due to the untimely death of a father, and is then manifested in a demonic entity (The Babadook).

When you realize just how many times you seen this played out, it feels so watered down and lazy. There’s no passion behind it. Everyone is just going through the motions until we reach a very predictable ending. Even the parts where the ghost (?) attacks has been marred by the PG-13 rating. This is one of the few times where an R rating might have saved it. That says a lot when gore is the only thing that can make a movie remotely interesting.  The parts that haven’t completely ripped off other movies requires way too much suspension of disbelief. For example, if a parent has been proven by the state to be mentally ill and incapable of raising a young child, why the hell is that child still living with that parent? Also, the kid fell asleep in a classroom 4 days in a row before the school called to see if everything was okay at home. 4 days…before checking on the welfare of a student. Please explain to me how that makes any sort of sense. Don’t worry. I’ll wait.

This gets 1/5. There’s…just nothing to care about. It’s yet another PG-13, jump scare filled cash cow to get all the teens in seats. It’s another case where something semi popular gets made into a movie simply to cash in on it. This wasn’t about making a decent movie. It’s an overblown marketing ploy. It’s just infuriating to me because it’s taking the genre I’ve spent a good chunk of my life following, and it’s turning it into something cheap and gimmicky. All I see here is that Sandberg is incredible with short films, but obviously does not know what to do with anything feature length. But nevermind that because he’s our director for Annabelle 2. I don’t think anything is this world could prepare me for that upcoming train-wreck. Just watch the short film Lights Out, and don’t bother with the full length movie. If you absolutely just want to see it, be smart and take the time to watch the 3-4 different movies it stole its plot from.

 

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