Light’s Out review: Director David F. Sandberg undertakes his first feature film, an adaptation of his popular short film Light’s Out.
Light’s Out review by Kat Hughes, August 2016.
Back in 2013 the internet was taken by storm by a short film that could very well be one of the scariest films ever made. That film was called Light’s Out and, despite being only just over two and a half minutes, it’s terrifying. Clearly impressed with the film, James Wan joined forces with David F. Sandberg to expand the idea to feature-length. The result is something pretty special.
Teresa Palmer plays Becca, a young woman estranged from her young brother and unstable mother. After the death of her step-father, Becca is pulled back to her family by pleas from her kid brother Martin (Gabriel Bateman). It seems that mum Sophie (Maria Bello) is having another one of her manic periods and there’s something not quite right with her friend Diana. Diana has an aversion to light, may or may not be entirely alive, and she seems intent on keeping Sophie all to herself.
Our characters feel real and for the most part act in a realistic manner. Granted there’s the obligatory ‘I’ll be right back’ and a couple of other cliches, but the characters use their brains in several situations where you don’t usually see such a thing. Palmer, unfortunately usually a kiss of death for films, holds the film together well, and shows promise as a scream queen were she to want to go in that direction. Similarly our child isn’t the usual creepy kid. Much like Samuel in The Babadook, Martin is a kid with smarts and more than a little fight in him. Then there’s rocker boyfriend Bret (Alexander DiPersia) who is definitely smarter than the average piece of arm candy in film.
Our villain Diana is a force to be reckoned with. Granted she feels a little like a character from a J-Horror like The Ring or The Grudge but she’s definitely effective. Spending most of the screen time lurking in the shadows, she’s truly creepy. However, towards the end when more of her is revealed, some of the magic is lost.
Feature-length Light’s Out might be, but it’s definitely not going to numb any bums as it clocks in around the eighty minute mark. The lithe run time means that there’s really nowhere to hide and the scares come thick and fast from the outset. The opening alone will have you squirming in your seats; who knew a desolate warehouse full of mannequins at night could be so creepy? Well everyone, but Sandberg really wrings the tension to the fever pitch. This is a film that taps into the most primal of fears, the fear of the dark. Sandberg filmed with as many natural light sources as possible to really exaggerate the blackness. Whole scenes unfold with only a singe candle or blacklight as illumination. This is a much more complex array of light sources than the usual lamp and overhead light. The variety helps keep things fresh, having the same set of lights would feel repetitive and induce boredom.
Best viewed in a nice dark cinema screen, not only does the environment enhance what’s on screen, it draws you further into the world of the film. Plus, if its anything like the screening we were in, you’ll find yourself joining your fellow viewers in bouts of nervous giggles, a joyous front that masks your internal fear.
Much like The Babadook, Light’s Out seeks to deal with more serious issues than just the thing in the dark. Yes there are scares galore, but beneath that there’s a study of mental illness and the effects it has, not just on the individual, but those around them. It’s also about family and the ties that bind us. This is an elevated and intellectual fright fest.
Light’s Out is the perfect expansion of the short film that spawned it. Keeping the project with the original creator was a great decision and the narrative feels like the natural progression from what has been seen before. The feature is also peppered with little nods to the source material. We get the nice little touch of the duct tape on the light switch and an appearance from the short’s leading lady.
Light’s Out is released in UK cinemas on Friday 19th August.