Another Sneak Preview! Lights Out.
And yet ANOTHER sneak preview!
I suppose I should do an UNFAIR COMPARE on the Ghostbusters reboot, eventually. But my buddy Jeremy from A Brew to A Kill called me up and was like “hey, wanna see Lights Out for free?” And, well … free is a good number.
The best monsters have ‘rules’ that dictate how they function: Vampires are burned by the sun and hate crosses, Werewolves turn during the full moon and die by silver, Predators see in infrared and only kill people who are armed, and so on. Lights Out operates on a juicy, straightforward premise. Basically, there’s a creepy murderous shadow-ghost who disappears when exposed to light. Throw in some creaky floors in big shadowy houses, and the movie pretty much writes itself.
Director David F. Samberg came up with the idea in a short horror film (again, called Lights Out) which was impressive enough to get him a full movie deal, so good on him. The thing is, in padding a three minute short into a full length movie, Lights Out stumbles.
Honestly, it’s the little things that stuck out at me. More often than not, most of the characters act ‘horror movie stupid,’ which I suppose is forgiveable enough. However, the thing that really got me is that the ‘boyfriend’ character, who is supposed to be all rebellious and stuff due to the fact he’s got a beard, tattoos, and a leather jacket … drives a Nissan hatchback. And not even ‘oh, this shitty thing is all I could afford.’ Seriously, it had seat mounted DVD players. I’m a bit of a car guy, so I notice this sort of thing, but still. Little details like this are enough to make the movie seem … well, too movie-like, I guess.
It doesn’t help that Lights Out is PG-13, either. But, I admit, I’m a little biased against PG-13 rated horror flicks. I guess I’m coming from a position of “why wouldn’t you put as much boobs and fake blood into your movie as possible?” I guess I’m just a grumpy old man (and/or grungy horror fan) so I’m not hugely excited about ‘lighter’ horror tropes like ‘the scrappy’ kid or … honestly, the scrappy kid in Lights Out just comes off as annoying. At least Maria Bello digs into the whole ‘crazy mother’ character, in easily the best performance of the flick.
Complain as I may, Lights Out has some really interesting ideas. There’s the whole ‘dark-monster’ thing, of course, but the movie also plays around (if somewhat heavy handedly) with the idea of the ‘monster as mental illness’ metaphor. Jeremy described it as “Young Adult Babadook,” and he was pretty much spot on.
But yeah. Lights Out redeems itself in its last twenty minutes, when it really lets itself play around with the whole light & dark stuff. Amusingly enough, the obnoxious Nissan-driving boyfriend was the only character in the whole movie who actually seemed to know what the hell he was doing. I mean, these days, who hasn’t used their phone as an impromptu flashlight? It didn’t help that the shadow-murder-ghost-lady kind of had vaaaague plot-type powers that let her mess with the local power systems because why not?
The problem with a monster that’s vulnerable to light is that we, as a society, are really good at lighting things when we want to. Honestly, I would’ve loved a sequence in which the characters in the movie got their shit together and decked themselves out in flashlights and headlamps and glowsticks. Or hell, it seems the obvious solution to a darkness-based monster is to LIGHT THE HOUSE ON FIRE, but that’s just me throwing in overkill.
Ultimately, my complaints about Lights Out stem from a kind of … idealism, I guess? While the movie’s decent enough on its own merits (I’d give it a B Minus, really), I can’t help but think of the even cooler movie that could be wrought from the whole ‘monster in the dark’ premise.
And, y’know, my version of this potential movie is a Hard R for all the gratuitous nudity, but that can be said for every movie I daydream up in my head.