Lights Out director: David F Sandberg
Lights Out cast: Maria Bello, Teresa Palmer, Gabriel Bateman
The story is a nice twist to the normal family equation — of children being told to get into bed with the instruction to turn off lights, ghosts coming to haunt them, and parents looking on helplessly.
Here the one haunted is the mother, Sophie (Bello), and the ones fighting back are her children, including a surly young Rebecca (Palmer) and her little stepbrother Martin (Bateman). There is a boyfriend around, but his role is even lesser than that of the usual hangers-on in such tales.
Lights Out also starts promisingly, with the father alone at his factory as a woman advances menacingly in the dark while also answering calls from Martin back home about Sophie “behaving strangely”. But then the father gets killed in the most horrific manner, the evil is revealed, police never ask any questions, and the film doesn’t know how to scale it up once it has already revealed its hand.
Bello shows such flashes of promise in her truncated appearance as the film focuses on the cliched Gothic life of Rebecca that one wonders at the direction Lights Out could have taken if it had centred on her. There is one especially moving scene of her reaching out to Rebecca through her confused state.
Sandberg, who extended his own impressive short by the same name into this extended film, should have let this one rest. Can’t always have the lights on.