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Lights Out (2016)

Warner Home Video
Blu-ray Disc Released: 10/25/2016

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/21/2016

In order to stand apart from the show business crowd, some feel that it's good to have a gimmick. We see a lot of this in music, especially from bands or performers who dress up in outlandish outfits. Yes, that gimmick can certainly get you attention, but you'd better have talent to back it up. Sometimes, a movie can have a gimmick. Aside from having a specific actor or personality appear in the film, this gimmick can be something which is immediately eye-catching and intriguing. But, again, there had better be some substance there Does Lights Out have anything to offer below the surface?

Following the death of his father, Paul (Billy Burke), young Martin (Gabriel Bateman) becomes very disturbed by the behavior of his mother, Sophie (Maria Bello), who often talks to and refers to someone who isn't there. Although, Martin has seen a shadowy figure and heard something moving around. When Martin has trouble at school and Sophie can't be reached, his estranged sister, Rebecca (Teresa Palmer), is called. Unable to deal with Sophie's odd behavior, Rebecca moved out some time ago, but she's glad to help with Martin. They both soon find themselves stalked by that shadowy figure, who Sophie refers to as Diana. Who is Diana and can she be stopped?

Lights Out is based on a short-film by Director David F. Sandberg which presented a very interesting gimmick. In the three-minute short, a woman is pursued by a creature whose outline can be seen in the dark, but disappears when the light is on. The short is very cool and undeniably creepy. But, can a very piece with no dialogue be turned into a feature film? That was clearly the daunting task placed before Sandberg, who returns to direct the full-length movie, and screenwriter Eric Heisserer.

Somehow they managed to make it work. They've taken the gimmick from the short and placed into a coherent story. It's nothing original, but it does its job here. The wisest thing that Heisserer did was keep things simple. We basically only have four characters here, and, for the most part, they are all likeable. (Rebecca's boyfriend, Brett (Alexander DiPersia), is kind of a douchebag, but we'll give him the benefit of the doubt.) The "mystery" part of the story is rather straight-forward (more on that in a minute) and doesn't get in the way of the action. Sure, the characters do plenty of stupid things, but they only serve to get the audience more involved.

The practicality of the script opens the doors for what we came here to see -- crazy monster action. As noted above, Diana can only appear in darkness and will disappear at the slightest hint of light. This means that we get all kinds of cool shots in which we see Diana's outline in the shadows, but she vanishes the second light moves that way, only to re-appear when it retreats. Yes, this effect is used over and over in the movie, but Sandberg keep finding way to keep it fresh, including one very cool moment in the third act. Diana's ability to reach out of any pool of darkness means that she can appear from anywhere and this leads to some nice jump scares. Her sudden appearances in the background are creepy and the movie moves along at a brisk pace.

With its great visuals and steady pace, Lights Out is able to outrun some very tangible problems. First of all, horror fans will undoubtedly compare this to the similarly themed Darkness Falls and They, both of which featured monsters which lived in the dark. So, we once again are faced with a movie where characters canít ever manage to stay in the light and we are yelling at them to get a decent flashlight. (Whereís that big light Mulder carried on The X-Files?) Secondly, Lights Out feels like its working while you are watching it, but afterwards, when you really think about it, much of the story unravels. (As youíll see below, some of this is addressed in the deleted scenes.) Diana is a visually arresting monster, but her backstory doesnít hold up.

Lights Out is no masterpiece, but it does everything that a solid horror movie should. We get a creepy villain, unique visuals, and just enough suspense. No, the story isnít groundbreaking, but the movieís gumption moves it across the finish line. The movie was a minor hit right out of the gate, and a second film was immediately approved. I canít help but think that itís going to be a prequel which does a better job of filling in some of the gaps found here.

Lights Out needs a lot of D batteries on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Warner Home Video. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 34 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no noticeable grain and no defects from the source materials. Despite the mere subject matter of the film being darkness, the image is never overly dark and the action is always visible. We don't get many bright colors here, but the tone still look realistic. The picture shows a nice amount of depth and the level of detail is notable. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.7 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is an impressive audio presentation, as the film is fraught with whispered sounds coming from off-screen. These emit from the front and surround channels in a pleasing manner, placing us right in the action. The subwoofer really kicks in during the attack scenes.

The lone extra on the Lights Out Blu-ray Disc is a reel of three DELETED SCENES which run about 14 minutes. Right out of the gate, we get a scene which shows us that someone did question how Paul died. The third scene, which runs nearly ten minutes, is clearly an alternate ending that shows a new final battle with Diana.

Review Copyright 2016 by Mike Long