For three years, David F. Sandberg’s short horror film “Lights Out” rocked the internet and became a viral hit. It was a very short and to the point film with excellent framing, brilliant editing, and a shocker of a surprise ending. After years as a viral hit, we’re given the full length adaptation of “Lights Out,” which is a pretty great extension of the terror that Sandberg spreads out for his audience. Thankfully while the spirit of the original film is kept in tact (with the original star making a welcome walk on appearance), “Lights Out” is transformed in to a complex and wrenching horror film about mental illness, abandonment, and family. I was a bit hesitant to believe “Lights Out” could be expanded in to a feature length film but while it isn’t perfect, it’s a damn good horror film with some genuinely dynamite moments.
Director Sandberg even has a good time with the use of light, turning a blinking red shop light, a car spotlight, and a black light in to some very harrowing moments of terror. With the original short film there was literally no mythos, so you can sense Sandberg and co. working carefully to inject a back story behind the specter we saw in the original short. Martin is a young man who is sadly straddled with a very mentally ill mother named Sophia who refuses to take her medications and lives in isolation. To make life worse, she’s a very alienating individual who spends a lot of her free time talking to shadows and dark rooms. When Martin realizes Sophia may not be completely delusional, he desperately tries to convince his older and distant sister Rebecca that there is something very evil lurking in the darkness of his mother’s house.
Leaving years before after problems with Sophia, Rebecca (as played by Teresa Palmer in a very strong dramatic turn) intervenes to help the frightened Martin. After a near fatal confrontation with the darkness born specter in her apartment, the siblings begin investigating what the evil being is and whether their mother spawned it or is being held hostage by it. Sandberg transforms every dark corner and crevice in to a potential hazard, as the evil entity becomes even more clever and relentless as the mystery unfolds. The cast do a generally bang up job including Palmer whose sense of urgency and confusion toward this situation is heartbreaking, especially since she gradually realizes everything she thought she knew about her mother is destroyed. Despite being merely a supporting character, co-star Maria Bello is injects a stellar sense of restlessness and mental disruption as she slowly reveals the intentions of her character, and what this being’s connection is to her.
“Lights Out” is definitely a great chiller of a horror film, and while it lacks the inherent urgency of the original short, it definitely packs a punch with some great jump scares, excellent suspense, and a very subtle implication of a sequel. Even as a standalone horror entry, “Lights Out” is a damn good ghost story I intend to re-watch very soon.
The Blu-Ray sadly comes with only three deleted scenes clocking in at almost thirteen minutes in length. The third deleted scene is an alternate ending for “Lights Out” where the director makes it abundantly clear Diana isn’t quite gone. I’m very disappointed there isn’t more to this release beyond three deleted scenes. I would have loved to hear from director Sandberg about how he came up with the idea for “Lights Out,” his reaction to the short film becoming such a viral hit, and the original short film. Sure it’s available on youtube, but that didn’t stop Michael Dougherty from including his short film that inspired “Trick r Treat” on the home releases. I would loved to have heard director Sandberg explain how he got the idea for “Lights Out,” most of all. Maybe there’s a special edition coming down the line? Who knows?