Cast: Starring Maria Bello, Theresa Palmer, Gabriel Bateman, Billy Burke
Director: David F. Samberg
There’s a scene in this movie where a small boy named Martin (Bateman) asks his step-sister Rebecca (Palmer) why a ghost is terrorising them. “I don’t know…” she replies. The film also submits that demons can get inside your head. Baloney! The characters see but do not perceive. Ignorance is bliss they say, but Rebecca would have understood if she’d perused Scripture. Not that Hollywood horror lore believes in salutary instruction, (with honourable exceptions like The Exorcist), but the Good Book clearly tells us, the dead stay dead; they can never return to haunt the living and the conjuring of spectres which resemble the dear departed is the handiwork of Lucifer and his minions. In other words, lies and deception are the means for an end: destruction.
Expanded from a short film of the same name, Lights Out is a supernatural tale about mental illness and a family terrorised by a female monster that emerges in the dark. Helmed by David Samberg and produced by James Wan (Saw, The Conjuring, Insidious) the movie kicks off when Rebecca learns that Martin, is tormented by nightmares similar to the ones she had as a young girl. Their mother (Bello) is not much help since she’s mental and believes the ghost is her friend. Sheesh. With friends like these, you don’t need enemies.
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It doesn’t help that the house is filled with nightmarish artworks, dolls, mannequins and oh, there’s a creepy basement too so what follows are spooky sequences dotted with scares as the malevolent spirit whose name we learn is Diana,stalks the household. We also learn from flashbacks and memorabilia that the siblings’ mother was treated for depression as a child in the same facility as Diana who was afflicted by a rather malignant form of skin disease which confined her to the shadows.
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This demon will not spare even children and can only be combated with light (foundational to the Parsi religion and as the timeless invocation from the Brihdaranyaka Upanishad goes, Tamaso ma jyotirgamaya – lead me from darkness to light). In Lights Out, the battle between light and dark symbolises the struggle between good and evil in our lives. Just as the characters in Lights Out employ candles, torches, and even cell phones (which raised a snarky chuckle from someone in the audience) humans in real life must resort to prayer, hope and faith.
Speaking for myself, I’m disappointed the characters never once recited a prayer although the way they held aloft their cells/portable lights reminded me of the Dracula narratives where humans raise crosses to keep vampires at bay. That’s comforting for your reviewer at least, especially when the horrors of life (terrorism/poverty/climate change, etc.) can feel too much to bear.