By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)

Writer/director David F. Sandberg makes his feature film debut with a horror movie that makes for a creepy and thrilling time at the cinema.  To be honest, there are scarier movies out there, and ones that aren’t quite as predictable as this one; however, this movie’s journey to its obvious conclusion is still a heck of a ride.  Even though the film, more or less, plays out as expected, Sandberg, crew and cast deliver solid scares and offer an engaging story with decently developed characters.  Lights Out is pretty much a good old fashioned haunting flick that will make audiences sleep with the lights on. 

Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) has an estranged relationship with her family.  For many years, her mother Sophie (Maria Bello) has struggled with mental illness, taking a serious toll on the happiness of the family.  When Rebecca’s younger half-brother Martin (Gabriel Bateman) begins to experience what he believes are supernatural occurrences,  and feels that he and his mother are in serious danger, he seeks the help of his sister who had similar experiences as a child.  For years, Rebecca was convinced that these experiences were figments of her imagination, but comes to the realization that her family may be haunted by a malevolent spirit.

Written by Eric Heisserrer and David F. Sandberg, based on Sandberg’s short film with the same title, Lights Out is a film that may not astonish horror fans, but still makes for a scary good time.  The development of the main characters is pretty solid and most of the scares genuinely work.  Sandberg does a great job of setting the mood and building the tension and suspense.  It is a movie that definitely plays with people’s fear of the dark.  Some adults may no longer have a fear of darkness, but the events in the film will take these stoic grownups back to a time when they were afraid.

The film doesn’t have a massive cast, but leads Teresa Palmer, Maria Bello, Gabriel Bateman, and Alexander DiPersia deliver admirable work.  I was particularly impressed with pre-teen actor Gabriel Bateman who performs quite well for being so young.  He shares a lovely chemistry with co-star Teresa Palmer and the two stars credibly portray the roles of brother and sister.  Maria Bello delivers a pained and haunting portrayal of woman dealing with her own personal demons and also struggling with her sanity in a scenario that could challenge even the strongest of minds.  Bello rarely fails to impress me with her acting and this movie is no exception.

Because of the great acting, decent writing,  respectable direction, and simply because it delivers undeniable frights, I recommend Lights Out for those seeking out chills and thrills at their local theater.  It may not be the best horror film of the year, but it is definitely one I enjoyed.  David F. Sandberg has gotten off to a good start as a feature filmmaker and I certainly look forward to more of his films.

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