31 Days of Halloween — Day 27: Lights Out (2016) — by Dr. Shock

hmp-lightsoutEditor’s note: Dave “Dr. Shock” Becker is a host on Horror Movie Podcast and the Land of the Creeps horror podcast. He is also the mastermind behind DVDInfatuation.com, a movie review blog where he is watching and posting one review every day until he reaches at least 2,500 movie reviews. Follow Doc on Twitter: @DVDinfatuation.

Like many kids, I was once afraid of the dark, and to alleviate my fears plenty of well-meaning adults would tell me that there was nothing in the dark that wasn’t also there during the day. I always knew that was BS, and Lights Out, a 2016 horror movie produced by James Wan, proves I was right.

It’s been some time since the tragic death of his father (Billy Burke), yet the family turmoil continues for young Martin (Gabriel Bateman), who hears his mother Sophie (Maria Bello) talking to herself for hours on end in the middle of the night. But upon investigation, Martin realizes his mom is not alone after all: a shadowy creature, which can only be seen when the lights are out, is with her. Sophie insists this entity is her friend, and refers to it as “Diana”, but Martin is so petrified that he can’t even sleep at night.
After falling asleep (once again) in class, Martin asks the school to call his older half-sister Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) to come pick him up. Though her relationship with their mother is strained (she left home years earlier, and has been living on her own for some time), Rebecca agrees to let Martin stay at her apartment. But to her dismay, “Diana” turns up as well, reminding her of a childhood encounter she herself had with the entity. In an effort to help her kid brother, Rebecca does a little research and uncovers some startling things about both her mother and Diana. Aided by her boyfriend Bret (Alexander DiPersia), Rebecca spends the evening at Sophie’s house in the hopes of ending this nightmare once and for all.

But Diana isn’t about to go quietly into the night.

Directed by David F. Sandberg, Lights Out is a very unique ghost story in that it gives us a malevolent spirit that can only be seen in the dark (it disappears completely when a light is turned on). As you can imagine, this leads to a good number of jump scares, and it’s to the filmmakers’ credit that, even when we know one is coming, these “surprises” are still damned unnerving. Lights Out also benefits from having one of the creepiest ghosts I’ve seen in some time; a tall, lanky being with no discernable features, Diana slinks in the shadows and hides in dark corners, waiting to pounce on those she views as a threat (which is pretty much anyone who might come between her and Sophie).

Even when we learn a little about Diana (including why she stays out of the light, and the reason she and Sophie share such a strong bond), it doesn’t reduce the film’s scare factor one iota. If anything, her backstory is so disturbing that it actually makes Diana even more frightening than she was before! In addition to its horror elements, Lights Out is also an effective family drama (along with looking out each other, Rebecca and Martin try their darnedest to help Sophie) with a dash of romance thrown in for good measure (as the terror escalates the relationship between Rebecca and Bret grows stronger).

So, for anyone who is still afraid of the dark, don’t be ashamed to sleep with the lights on. After watching Lights Out, it may be the only way you’ll be able to get a little shut-eye!

— Dr. Shock

Don’t miss Jay of the Dead and Wolfman Josh’s live audio review of Lights Out in a Dairy Queen following their screening on Horror Movie Podcast Episode 94.

Links for Dr. Shock:
Dave’s daily movie review website: DVDInfatuation.com
Follow Dave on Twitter: @DVDinfatuation
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Dr. Shock also appears on this horror podcast: Land of the Creeps

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6 thoughts on “31 Days of Halloween — Day 27: Lights Out (2016) — by Dr. Shock


    Day 27 – Fritt vilt 2 (2008)

    While watching Fritt vilt/Cold Prey 2, it’s difficult not to think about the 1981 Halloween 2 for the majority of the film. Right away when you look at the DVD cover of the film on Amazon, you get a mention of how the nightmare isn’t over for her, something not all that different from one of Halloween 2’s taglines of “The Nightmare Isn’t Over.” Once you begin watching the movie, the similarities become even more obvious. For starters, this movie is all about the final girl of the previous movie now recovering in a hospital when her attacker returns to kill off the hospital staff in his attempt to get at the one who got away. That’s the exact plot of Halloween 2. We get to know a bit more about the killer in this film, there’s a severe lack of people at the hospital, a young boy is at the hospital, and of course there’s love and attempts at love in this. Here’s the thing though, Fritt vilt 2 may come across as just the Norwegian version of Halloween 2, but it’s actually a vastly superior film to it’s Halloween counterpart.

    Maybe the thing I liked the most was the emotional attachment to the characters, both for the victims of the last film and the ones of this one. Unlike most horror sequels, this one doesn’t brush away the fact that the lead character just lost some of the closest people in her life. There’s an heartfelt scene early on when Jannicke is able to see the bodies of her friends in the morgue. She has little moments with each of them with the exception of Mikal, which is great because it keeps Jannicke from having to react to someone who was a dick, but then it also didn’t stand out that she didn’t have a moment with him. Instead, Jannicke just had her attention diverted when she saw the body of the killer nearby. I love the handling of the deceased characters from the first film. Since it’s thirty-seven minutes before the first kill in Cold Prey 2, we’re also given a good amount of time to get to know some of the characters in the sequel. Again, this is something that’s better than Halloween 2. For me, whenever I watch Halloween 2, all of the hospital staff just felt like random fodder to kill time until Michael could go after Laurie again. Here, I care about the characters and it’s a little sad whenever one of them is killed off.

    Similarly to Halloween 2, we learn something new about the killer in Fritt vilt 2 that seemingly changes his motivations some. For Michael Myers, it was learning that he wasn’t just going after the babysitters for the sake of going after them, he wanted to kill Laurie, his sister. In Fritt vilt 2, it’s revealed that the killer was a stillborn and we’re given the impression that even as a child, there was something evil inside of him. Consequently, that seemingly changes how we look at the killer’s parents when it was revealed they had tried to kill him in the backstory in the first film. Maybe they’re not monster parents, but rather the first ones that recognized this this birth mark on the eye child can not be left to survive. Whereas the killer in the first film was treated as a normal human being, they went a bit further in this film with the killer having more superhuman abilities like Jason Voorhees had later in the Friday the 13th series. I dig it in the sense that it’s something different. Even the killer is a little different from film to film.

    One of the big questions in Halloween 2 was the weirdness of having so few people at a hospital. Here, they actually try explaining it. The hospital that Jannicke was brought to was nearly shut down, so they have limited patients. Whether it’s accurate or not, because I’ve never been to Norway, I’m able to further believe that there’s so few people at the hospital. It’s far easier to believe that than having to buy into the idea that a hospital in Illinois had maybe a dozen people in the entire building in 1978. Fritt vilt 2 further makes you care about characters by introducing the fact that there’s an elderly woman and a young boy also staying at the hospital as patients. The boy especially stands out because Halloween 2 introduced a blade in the tongue boy, but then they proceeded not to do anything with him.

    Last, I’d even say Fritt vilt 2 presented a much stronger female character in Jannicke than Halloween 2 did with Laurie. It kind of bugs me that even though it’s the sequel, Laurie is even more dependent on outside help to survive Michael. There was even the point where Dr. Loomis nearly had to slap her around just to take the gun he was handing her. Now, Jannicke on the other hand? She’s a badass. She shows a vulnerable side by breaking down when seeing the bodies of her fallen friends, but when it comes time to fight the killer again, she’s not only not backing down, but at portions she’s having to protect the young boy to ensure he doesn’t come into harm’s way. Jannicke’s actions in this movie resembles Laurie Strode from Halloween H20 more than Halloween 2. These Fritt vilt movies find a good balance between presenting strong female characters without going too far with them that they’re Mary Sues.

    Now that I’m done comparing Fritt vilt 2 to Halloween 2, let’s talk a bit about the rest of the movie. One addition to this film was one of the doctors, Camilla. She essentially is the co-lead protagonist with Jannicke. Much like Jannicke, she’s a really likable character who has the same love life problems as Jannicke, namely a current relationship that isn’t perfect and a friendship that the other party wishes to be more. I liked Camilla enough that if there was a traditional sequel to Cold Prey 2, I would be completely fine with Camilla taking over the role as sole lead protagonist from Jannicke. The kills in this film were better than in the original. There was one that was completely bloodless, but it was such a violent, bone breaking death that it’s likely my favorite out of the two movies.

    The only real criticism I have is that at times, it felt too similar to the original movie. Although some might not be a fan of it, I was fine with the sequel following the original’s lead in waiting awhile before the first kill. However, there were a few story points that were nearly identical to the previous film. The relationships built around Camilla is a great example of that. Much like Jannicke, she’s in a relationship that while okay, it’s suffering through some sort of problem that is preventing them from taking that next step. In addition, she has a friendship with a guy that clearly has romantic feelings for her, just as Morten Tobias had for Jannicke. In neither case, does Jannicke or Camilla reveal whether they’re actually into their subtle suitors or not. The fates of Jannicke and Camilla’s boyfriends are similar too as Eirik is thought to have been killed earlier, until he’s revealed to be alive before quickly being killed for good. Same thing happened with Ole, Camilla’s boyfriend. While I liked all of these plot points and feel as if they help me care about the characters, I would have preferred to see a little more variety between the two films.

    Overall though, Fritt vilt/Cold Prey 2 is not only another good Norwegian horror film, but I actually consider it to be superior to the original. If you’re a fan of the Halloween series, I think Fritt vilt 2 is something you should go out of your way to watch to have fun comparing it to Halloween 2 and see if I’m crazy for believing it’s Halloween 2, except done truly right. I recognize that these Fritt vilt films may be a little too slow for some viewers since they take their time before the kills begin, but I really like that aspect. While I won’t be watching it before the end of the month, I do look forward to checking out the prequel, Fritt vilt 3 at some point in the near future.

    Rating: 8.5/10

  2. Day 27: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

    Rating: 10/10 (classic/must-see!)

    What I liked:
    – Whoa, hello twist ending!
    – Werner Krauss’ performance as Dr. Caligari is haunting; I’m surprised I don’t hear him regularly referenced among the most disturbing figures in horror.
    – While the film does mostly spell everything out, there still is a level of ambiguity left for interpretation.
    – The dreamlike set design creates the perfect mood for the mind-twisting story; this definitely influenced Tim Burton.

    What I didn’t like:
    – Nothing; this is a perfect film.

  3. Interesting review, Dr. Shock!

    I just saw Lights Out the other day…and, I gotta say…I liked the short film a lot more than the feature film. The movie had its pros – the abuser/victim angle with Diana and the mom was a great part of the narrative, the rapport between the brother and sister, and the acting from the mom was solid…

    The cons though for me outweighed the pros. Too much backstory, for me. I wish Diana didn’t look like every monster ever from a j-horror movie. Most of the climactic scenes in the movie with lights and candles actually felt ripped off from Darkness Falls…

    Overall, it was okay. I wouldn’t go above a 7.5 at max.

    Anyway, that’s my two cents. Looking forward to reading the rest of your reviews :)

  4. Day 27: The Witch (2016)
    Rating: 9/10

    I saw this film in theaters and upon a second watch I loved it even more. The Witch is an authentic period piece from it’s subject to it’s actors and dialogue. The story is nicely paced with plenty of scares. The cinematography is beautiful and fits the desolate narrative. The score is real and relentless. I’m surprised how fun this film was to rewatch. A must see.

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