BY BLAINE MCLARENIt seems that every year we have a horror film that endures months and months of hype. The hype is usually created by horror sites who tout “scariest movie of the year” and “will change the face of horror…forever”. I would like to say that I am above this kind of hyperbole, but I am just as bad as the next guy. These films are usually above average and seen in that perfect environment of a film fest, which instantly boosts its rating by at least a star or two. By the time it makes its way to us, it is hard to not be excited and (even the most self controlled) expect more than your average studio horror film. This was definitely the case with Lights Out and after watching it, giving it some time to process, I am still on the fence. It offers some great moments of tension, but very little else. Maybe I am just burned out on this kind of film, but I just expected a lot more than a one-dimensional jump scare flick.
The film begins with an introduction to the family in peril. There is the son (Martin, played by Gabriel Bateman) and his mother (Sophie, played by a frazzled-as-hell Maria Bello) who are already squaring off with the supernatural, while mourning the loss of their father/husband. After we meet them, we meet the Daughter (Rebecca, played by Teresa Palmer) who is portayed as troubled based on her heavy metal posters and rebel attitude. She is fighting with her saint of a boyfriend and worried about her family. After the son is caught sleeping in class, we find out that this supernatural force lives in the dark and can kill you. This is where our gang starts their cliché adventure and try to survive while fighting this “dark” force in their home.
Supernatural horror has been quickly turning into a parody of itself. This film is no exception, but when they do amp up the tension it works. The only problem is that there are long, drawn out scenes that rely on the characters and they are hollow, boring caricatures. Horror movies should be scary (which this film can be, at times), but doesn’t the audience deserve a little more substance? Every interaction only exists to set up the next big jump scare, but after a while you stop caring. The filmmaking is competent, but there is very little risked here (as well). I believe that if this film was made five years ago I would be more forgiving, but we have seen this all before and if you wait another two weeks you will see (at least something very similar) it again. LIGHTS OUT is currently in theaters everywhere.