Written by: Daniel McDonald
Directed by: David F. Sandberg
Cast: Teresa Palmer, Gabriel Bateman, Maria Bello
What a summer for horror fans! At a time when blockbusters seemed to struggle (even those that apparently seem to have covered their production costs, have enormous promotional costs, tie – in campaigns that went belly up because the attached film failed to deliver the numbers that were predicted), we’re still seeing special celluloid on the big screen.
When it comes to the struggling, there are several examples, but the two biggest and most recent offenders were the troubled, toxically sentenced to death (sorry guys I really enjoyed it) female reboot of Ghostbusters, and especially the surprisingly terrible press and numbers for Independence Day: Resurgence.
The PG-13 vs R situation continues.
Well, two recent horror releases put the many suppositions and theories to the test as they are both monster movies. I feel both tell their stories well and both are successful, but in different ways. As so many “surefire/misfires” this year have proved, even when all of the elements are there, sometimes a seemingly great idea on paper, needs the wise, naysayer to say “let’s take another look/see at this before we sign that 150 million dollar promotional check.” When they go so excellently hand in hand on projects like Lights Out and Don’t Breathe, they can help a little known “scary things happen in the dark” and a bigger budget “sometimes the monster is closer than you think” films excite an audience, and, as important, gives fans a reason to communicate that news by any means possible, pulling in the type of audiences producers dream of… then there are the “shoulda beens” that baffle the studios behind them, like the expensive B F but it’s Spielberg G, unwanted sequel Huntsman: Winter’s War and Batman vs Superman’s overall production failure, underperforming numbers (well, much less than was predicted) and bad press.
Also fading interest in previously popular franchises (bow and arrow anyone?) which had been taking the place of horror and violence, familial relationships in place of horny teens getting “nasty” in forests, vans, summer camps or, DEAR GOD NOOO! Cabins in the Woods. these PG-13 efforts are sort of the gateway drug cinematic equivalents that lead to fans wanting exposure to much higher leveled, graphically intensive “horror highs” thus the need for R-rated experiences usually egged on by “Awww c’mon betcha can’t handle it” popularly buzzed about, well-earned Summer Shivers.
In Lights Out we are treated to the unbridled joy of debut feature director David F. Sandburg. The story of a supernatural entity that can only exist, terrify and do nasty stuff whenever the film is completely bathed in darkness, or has cleverly created streams of light come and go. The night blind lens effects are SPARINGLY used and lighting/darkness provides Sandburg some very humorous moments
In the film a different tone of horror in the danger level of this predatory creature of the dark provides a sense of gravitas, flashbacks shot with a hazy, cold, wet nostalgic feel begins to inform the present, leading to our visual meeting with Diana, a mysteriously violent, seemingly not quite human creaking, cracking, seen only in shadows. In a Hitchcockian prologue, Diana’s weaknesses and (much more important her otherworldly viciousness and strengths) by an altercation with leading man/star Janet Leigh…wait….what? Nooo that’s not right, it’s that ZOO guy…why am I thinking WIZARD OF OZ….? Oh yeah it’s Billy Burke… was there a ZOO in WIZ…what? Oh yeah the Hitchcockian prologue…well after Mr. Burke takes his “metaphorical” shower, we’re introduced to a seriously damaged family that may have a connection to Diana.
The fans (I’ve not seen an audience react with a Rocky Horror-like fervor in years) have spoken, and you can practically see the director, sitting waaaaayy in the back of the cinema, delivering full energy air punches , The fan reaction/interaction was exactly what he wanted…debut feature…NAILED IT!!!
The “ooohhh yeah, I get it,” angle of the back story would either tap you on the shoulder or punch you in their side of the head, depending upon perception.