Lights Out (2016)

*. I appreciate the fact that Lights Out comes in at 80 minutes. Let’s face it, there isn’t a lot of story here. Anything they added would just be filler. Do we really want to know anything more about these characters and their dysfunctional family? Of course not. As soon as we see the trick with the light switch and Diana’s appearance/disappearance act we know pretty much everything we need to know and we’re ready to start getting scared.
*. Actually, if you’d seen the 2013 short of the same name directed by David F. Sandberg and starring his wife Lotta Losten (she’s the woman playing with the light switch in the prologue here), you’d know everything you need to know. What gets added here isn’t very interesting, or credible. I suppose they did the best they could to come up with a back story for Diana given the fast turnaround, but still.
*. I mean, what is Diana anyway? Some projection of Sophie’s subconscious, like the Babadook? A ghost? A demon? If a demon, I don’t understand the way she is both material and immaterial. If she can appear and disappear and go through doors and walls and zip around to different places and control the entire city’s power grid, why does light still bother her?
*. I was also unimpressed by Diana’s appearance. I think someone has to start exercising their imagination a bit more. Basically Diana is just another Sadako/Samara clone from the Ringu/The Ring movies. She seems like something that just crawled out of a well, and even has the same twitchy sort of movements. This has become a very generic look and I wasn’t impressed. What’s even more surprising is that the gremlin from the 2013 short, with its ping-pong ball eyes and pointy teeth, created with no budget whatsoever, was scarier.
*. Hm. So Diana had a photosensitive skin condition (Xeroderma pigmentosum) that caused her skin to fry like Dracula’s in the sunlight. In order to cure her, the good doctors decide to tie her to a chair and shine a bunch of powerful lights on her. She spontaneously combusts. Damn. Who could have seen that coming? And this was in the 1980s. I guess medicine has come a long way since the dark ages.
*. Maria Bello and Teresa Palmer are both good. Palmer in particular takes a hum-drum role and gives it a bit of an edge. She’s tough but troubled, not just a sexy last girl. I also like the way she wields her UV tube like a Jedi lightsaber. That was a clever prop to find in a basement (though apparently UV light has an even stronger effect on people suffering from Diana’s condition, so the science doesn’t work out that well).
*. But despite best efforts this is still a movie with a single concept, which is pretty much exhausted in the first ten minutes. Nevertheless, the return on investment was staggering and a sequel became inevitable. Indeed, an alternate ending promised as much. That ending was cut — wisely, I think, as it was clichéd and the effects for Diana’s second combustion looked terrible — but there can be no doubt the bitch will be back. I hope they find something new for her to do though, because after only 80 minutes she’s already getting old.

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