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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Jul 27, 2016

Lights Out Movie Review: Banking On Our Fear Of The Dark

“LIGHTS OUT” capitalizes on our fear of the dark. Director James Wan of "The Conjuring" is given much credit for it but it turns out he’s only one of the producers. It’s Director David Sandberg who first did this as short film in 2013. We saw it on youtube and, honestly, we did not at all find it scary. But then, he is now given the green light to develop it as a full length film and it’s currently showing in our theaters.

The movie’s opening sequence is what we saw exactly in the original short film. A woman is closing up shop and when she turns off the light, she sees the shadow of a dark figure by the doorway. She then switches the light on and there’s no dark figure. She turns it off again and the figure is still there. She does this repeatedly and the figure is there each time the lights are out. This works as the tension builds up as we watch it.

Unfortunately, a good opening sequence does not make the entire movie a good one. The mysterious creature who shows up in the dark is scared of the light, so all you have to do is to turn on the light to get rid of it. The technique is done repeatedly in various sequences all throughout the movie, using a neon light, a flashlight that you crank manually, a black light, a cellphone light and the headlights of a car that made the audience applaud.

The main problem with the movie is that it lacks characters we can fully sympathize with. A horror movie will work only if the viewer is totally rooting for the main characters who are then put in harm’s way. But if the characters are the type who are so dumb they keep on repeating their idiotic acts (like going back repeatedly to a haunted place where they know danger lurks), then you cease siding with them and you start rooting for the ghost or creature that is hounding them. Here, the characters are so “bobo” that each time the ominous entity tries to hurt them, we say: “O loko, buti nga sa inyo.”

The movie’s first casualty is a man (Billy Burke) who, instead of running away pronto, dilly dallies so it’s not surprising that the creature quickly demolishes him. Next character in danger is his son, Martin (Gabriel Bateman), who sleeps in school because he cannot sleep at night as there’s a ghost in their house.

His half sister, Rebecca (Teresa Palmer of “The Choice”), gets him to live with her in her apartment, but the school forces her to return her brother to their house which is haunted. Rebecca is attacked by the ghost but she doesn’t do anything about this. And we also cannot understand why she doesn’t open the curtains to let the sunlight in and just allows the house to be in total darkness. In true horror movie tradition, all the characters just make inexplicably stupid choices and judgments.

Martin and Rebecca’s mom, Sophie (Maria Bello), is obviously deranged and they also don’t do anything about her and her ghost friend who has a very bad attitude. The characters are actually thinly drawn. We see Rebecca having so many scars on her arms, but how she got them is never even explained.

The backstory of the malevolent presence is actually given a more lengthy resume and its plight is even more overly explained to tell us the nature of its original ailment, complete with references to mental institutions and risky experiments. It’s also shown how it has affected the mind of Sophie, which, honestly does not make much sense. The only consolation here is that "Lights Out" runs for less than an hour and a half, unlike “The Conjuring” movies that are just tediously overlong at more than two hours.