I love to hate a good horror movie. It's a fairly sadistic process to sit through a film guaranteed to send your heart rate up, increase your adrenalin levels, and cause spontaneous moments of panic. Still, there's a good reason the horror genre is a mainstay of cinema - things that go bump in the night take us back to childhood fears of the dark. The latest horror movie to hit the big screen, 'Lights Out', plays directly into that fear - but does it successfully conjure up those cinematic freights?
Martin (Gabriel Bateman, 'Annabelle', TV series 'American Gothic') is a young boy who's having a bit of a tough time, given his dad (Billy Burke, The Twilight Saga) died under mysterious circumstances and his mum (Maria Bello, 'The 5th Wave', 'Prisoners') appears to be experiencing a mental breakdown and talking to herself. When his concerned sister Rebecca (Teresa Palmer, 'The Choice', 'Point Break') confronts her mother, the two children begin to be stalked by a malevolent creature that lingers in the dark - but why is it preying on their family?
From the very first scene, the "monster" of this film is revealed - but that doesn't make things any less scary. As with all good horror, it's not about what you do see, but what you don't that will make you jump in your cinema seat. The fact that this presence lurks around every dimly-lit corner means it can appear anywhere at any time, and provides plenty of plot points to startle you.
All in all, the characters seem to have an above-average IQ for a horror movie; they don't make anywhere near as many faux pas as other victims from their genre - perhaps besides carrying one flashlight too few at all times. The story only falls short in its necessity to spell out very clearly everything that's come before. The backstory to the entity hellbent on haunting the family is a little unconventional, but gives a substantial rationale for its desire for the dark, and while adding a slight psychological element, pales in comparison to the likes of 'The Babadook'.
The characters seem to have an above-average IQ for a horror movie; they don't make anywhere near as many faux pas as other victims from their genre.
Teresa Palmer is having a fantastic run in Hollywood at the moment; this might not be the pinnacle of the Adelaide-born actress' career, but her role as Rebecca comes off as an respectable performance for the horror genre. Maria Bello plays the mentally unstable mum well, convincing through to the very pivotal finale. Still, 10-year-old Gabriel Bateman runs rings around his castmates - this kid has the skills for scary movies, and with his existing CV, he knows it.
Unless you have nerves of steel (or no soul), you're guaranteed to get a freight out of 'Lights Out'. Putting a new spin on an old horror trope has made this an above-average addition to the genre. Just make sure you see it during the daytime. With a friend. And when you ask yourself late at night if there's something in the closet or under the bed, it's just one more reason to say - yes, there is.