Review: 'Lights Out' Starring Teresa Palmer And Maria Bello

The trick to creating a great horror movie is to find somewhere people feel safe, a place they generally don’t equate with fear, and exploit the hell out of it. Thing what Jaws did for the water, or Freddy Krueger for dreams. What takes balls, if you’ll excuse the expression, is to take THE classic fear and build a movie around it. Light’s Out looks to take everyone’s primal fear of the dark, put a name to it and bring that childhood fear right back to the forefront. Teresa Palmer (a favorite of mine since I am Number Four) stars as Rebecca, a young woman who is brought back home to help with her little brother, Martin, after her mentally unwell mother’s (Maria Bello) actions warrant the attention of child protective services. Rebecca comes back during a tough time for a family that has lived their entirety in the tough times margin, the recent loss in the family just compounds what they’ve all been dealing with for years. Thanks to their mother, Sophie and her friend ‘Diana’. Diana, you see, is the one that comes in the dark.

There’s something great about a film that knows it’s place. I don’t mean that in the chauvinist type of judgmental way it’s usually used, I mean the movie business has a need for well-thought quick scare horror movies that don’t over stay their welcome…they’re like Chipotle or Noodles and Co., no you wouldn’t go there for an anniversary dinner but it’s miles ahead of McDonalds. Taking the number one fear of any person to ever live, the dark, and turning it into an atmospheric and suspense-laden 81 minutes is done in a way of beauty by David Sandberg who clearly knows that just because a film isn’t destined to be a classic doesn’t mean it can’t be thoroughly satisfying. As we learn more about “Diana” aka the Boogeyman/woman we see that Sandberg put some real thought into a mythos for the film, though I honestly don’t think it was wholly necessary and may have even been more effective without it. That being said having the backstory does round out what the film has to say about mental illness and Rebecca’s fears that she may be near her mother’s footsteps.

Maria Bello is wonderful in the role of Sophie mainly because she doesn’t over-do it and makes for a believably troubled woman, which ends up being important to the scares as much of the movie relies on you not being pulled out of the experience…over-acting is the number one culprit of ripping you back to reality. Teresa Palmer is great in a genre twisting role, taking over for what has historically been a male role and showing the world that gender has no place here.  So the acting is great but the real star of the show is the atmosphere created by Sandberg, in his directorial debut mind you. A film about a monster that lives in the dark may seem like it would be simple to craft. Dark=Bad Light=Good, but there’s a lot more to it than that and Sandberg puts this on display.

While not a summertime horror classic ala The Conjuring, Lights Out does its job and does it well. I challenge you, when you go to see this film find the parking spot under which the street light is broken and tell me you don’t speed up your process when getting in the driver’s seat when the film is over.

3.5 Out of 5 Guttenbergs