28/08/2016

Lights Out - Horror Exposited

Quick Thoughts: Lights Out

A troubled childhood rife with mental issues materialises in darkness, disappears in light.


We'll start with an overview, then get into spoilers. This is quite a good film, more so, a relatively good film. That is, relative to its genre. Lights Out is a supernatural horror and so we can all presume with quite a lot of confidence that there are going to be tropes, jumps scares, such and so on. You get some of those in this movie, but they're not too bad. The true faults in this movie come down to the director and cinematographer. The look and feel of this film implies that the director and/or cinematographer have a great eye for colour, contemporary neon flash and vibrancy. However, this is a film, as made clear with the title, about darkness. The pivotal reason why darkness is intrinsic to horror is atmosphere. It focuses the eye and is a visual tool for creating ambiguity - a great means of misdirecting, captivating and ultimately scaring an audience. To work with darkness, to create a great atmosphere with visuals, a director and cinematographer need a great eye for tone, not just colour. This allows them to work with shadow, play with the nuanced absence of light, not the spectra of possibility it can provide. The resulting downfall of this is then that this isn't a very atmospheric film, and despite its quite good (nothing spectacular, but with some great moments) acting, it cannot suck you in like it otherwise could. Moreover, the bland look of the film could be detrimental to its slightly comedic moments. I say could because there were idiots in the theatre making sure I knew what moments were supposed to be funny - which ones were scary, which ones were suspenseful, which ones were predictable, which ones they didn't get--you get the point. Nonetheless, I suspect that without the aid of the idiots the comedic moments wouldn't have hit that well, maybe would have seemed like awkward bits of editing and direction. Having said that, one of the strongest aspects of this film was character. No characters were overly cliched, benign and depthless shells. All but the demon antagonist had a strong moments and were in the end quite effective personas to take us through this narrative. It's having said that that we move into...

**SPOILERS**

First things first, Andi Osho. Her stand-up is quite good, her British accent being central to her projected stage presence. Maybe it was just me knowing that, but I didn't buy her American accent. Nonetheless, she put on quite a good performance. I know that's not really a spoiler, but it could cause you to fixate on that when it otherwise might not have, hence, spoiling the film.  Anyway, the worst thing about this film, to me, is not probably an issue its target audience would care about. The worst aspect of this movie is that it came so close, but failed at having greater narrative depth with Diana (the ghost thing) being a real person, a mental patient with a half-assed disease and non-existent motivation. The best use of her character would have been for it to be a metaphor - and she/it so nearly was. Diana should have been a symbol of depression much like the Babadook is in The Babadook.


With this we would have a had much stronger characters in Diana and her will being an extrapolated representation of Sophie's mental issues in face of family bonds and already present themes of trust and reclusion. However, this was very clearly avoided despite the writer, quite obviously (maybe accidentally), laying this deeper meaning out across the narrative. Instead of keeping ambiguity around the creature a lot of the film's 70 min run-time is dedicated to exposition around Diana. This is not needed. These scenes should have been taken out with the 'supernatural rules' of Diana being explained by the mother's need for darkness to be hidden from the world, her fears around parental responsibility and loving another man - as well as her daughter and son's fear of becoming like her, but also being trapped with a depressed mother. This would have allowed for more character scenes, but most importantly a better build to the mother's suicide. Her blowing her head off was a borderline strong moment thanks to good acting. But, there was no true tension set up around that, moreover, the direction of the suicide was not at all effective. So, in the end, if this film, if more horror films, took exposition out of their narratives and replaced them with meaning we'd get chance for better character, less jump scares, and more emotive scenes.

**SPOILERS OVER***

Overall, this is a good film as is. I'd be interested in seeing an alternative cut that maybe had some more 'character scenes' (as discussed in the spoilers) which could possibly bring it to the level of The Babadook. But, as is, an ok film, not a bad trip to the pictures.





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