One Note Played Really Well
Ah! It feels GOOD to be review a horror film again! It's been too long, internet. So, for those who don't know, I freaking love this genre. It's probably my favorite genre out there, but nowadays so many horror films have lost their way. I wrote a discussion of the genre, which you can find here, so I won't delve too much into it, but I will say 2016 has not been great to the genre so far. (Though I have not seen The Conjuring 2 yet) But we do have a Blair Witch sequel coming! I know I will be celebrating that come September. But we didn't come here to talk about other horror films, right? How is Lights Out? It's actually not half bad.
So let's talk about what the film does right. It's very short, coming in at just 81 minutes, but in between the scares there's actually a surprisingly good story underneath. This is by far the biggest selling point for Lights Out: the VAST majority of horror films have stories that you can't remember the next day nor do you have any interest in remembering, but Lights Out's story was actually engaging! It built up some serious stakes for the main characters, all of which were well acted. But kudos to writer Eric Heisserer, who wrote what is quite possibly the best story from a horror film I have seen in a LONG time. Now that doesn't mean the story was perfect, but a good story is miles ahead of what we're used to in the horror genre. Additionally, gotta give credit to the lighting department. Obviously with a premise surrounding a supernatural being that can only be seen in the dark you have to have some good lighting cues, but Lights Out definitely delivered in this department. After all check out the shot above for proof. I also have to give credit to the sound design. There were several points, (and some of the scariest moments of the film I might add) where you could hear footsteps coming from all around you in the theater, and that's not something that a lot of horror films do. After all one of the reasons you go watch a film in a theater is because of the fantastic sound systems so why not take advantage of it, right?
However there were definitely things holding this film back, most notably in the scares department. Once again we have a horror film filled with nothing but jump scares. Sure, they played this card really well, particularly with the lighting department, but remember when I put It Follows in my top 10 best films of 2015? Ya I did that because that film was scary as hell without using jump scares. With the exception of the footsteps, which was gimmicky at best, Lights Out is nothing but this, and by the end of the film I was just sitting there arms crossed waiting for the jump scares to come to an end. C'mon guys! Especially with an engaging story like this I KNOW you can do better. Also, and I might be splitting hairs here, but I will always bring up when a film sets rules for the evil creature then doesn't follow them. Which happens towards the tail end of the final act. But again, splitting hairs I know. The primary complaint I have with this film is it was simply just not all that creative in the scares department. You knew when almost every jump scare was coming and thus it wasn't all that scary. Fortunately an excellent story holds it up, and its originality and brief run-time kept me engaged throughout. If you're a fan of the horror genre like me, Lights Out is definitely a film that should not be missed.
The Critique: While it's sadly just one jump scare after another, an excellent and surprisingly engrossing story carries this film from start to finish.
The Recommendation: Definitely one that shouldn't be missed if you're a horror fan, and I think in time it might even serve as a good introduction to the genre as well.
Rewatchability: Moderately High
The Verdict: 7/10 Good.