Now, I am not a "horror movie buff" by any stretch of the imagination. I frankly think most horror movies are cheesy and terribly acted. I did, however, grow up in a household of horror movie addicts, so I have seen (sometimes forcibly) a good amount ranging from actually good to god-awful. I received an email about a chance to see “Lights Out” a little over a week before its official release. Knowing I could have a plus-one and get to write a review like an actual critic for once (off of an advance screening), I jumped at the chance.
The first thing I felt about “Lights Out” was that it reminded me heavily of some of the horror movies I actually have a fonder view towards, notably “The Grudge” and “The Ring.” I remember in grade school when it was all we could talk about at recess, “Did your parents let you watch it yet?” or “I have it at home, come over.” The premise itself is nothing too revolutionary and actually takes horror and the idea of being scared to most of our basic roots. We weren’t scared as little children of serial killers with chainsaws or haunted dolls, we were scared of the dark or more specifically what kind of creatures could be hiding in there. This general fear always manifested itself with the routine checking of dark closets or underneath beds and unsurprisingly, these routine actions are addressed (and given credence) in this film directly. I definitely was reminded heavily what it was like to be that scared kid who thought any noise was something hidden in the mysterious darkness around me.
The scare tactics employed were mostly of the jump-scare variety but the slow burn “creepy” moments are probably the highlight (as with most movies). For example, the scene in the fantastic “The Strangers” where one of the masked intruders comes into frame in the background, unbeknownst to the star, is more scary and poignant than any moment of one of them jumping out from around a corner. Jump tactics are often the easiest to employ and most of the time can be spotted by the sudden music change or obvious set up. This movie doesn’t feel terrible for relying on them though, because the creep factor of the monster itself and the idea of it only moving in the dark makes it feel almost necessary for the quick actions.
The hardest part in my opinion for any horror movie is to mix the campy humor with the plausibility of the actual situation. I feel like the good horror movies either fully embrace the cheese, think 80’s slasher (even if they didn’t mean to), or go for something that could happen to anyone, think “The Strangers.” The surprising part of “Lights Out” however is that even with a slightly unbelievable premise and plenty of full on “camp” moments with some not so cheesy horror and sometimes allowed you to forget that this was a fictional creature that somehow only existed in the dark.
This movie is going to be loved by any horror fan and I expect it to do pretty well at the box office.