“… chances are Diana will still have you sleeping with the lights on for a good while after leaving the theater.”– Lucy O’Brien of IGN
Lights Out is a nightmare for the filmmakers trying to figure out the cinematography to a film titled such. Overexposure, underexposure, one-eighth of a second exposure, 1/200 shutter speed with 3.6 frames per second (through the looking light meter glass), ISO noise, the wheezing, metallic grinding noise that Diana the entity makes. the taut and unyielding performances, Maria Bello as Sophie the pill-popper, fast-pacing, a fitting back story (which could have been expanded upon a little more), and the fact that lighting is a character in the film, shot with skillful use of sturdy genre tropes, and cinematographer) Marc Spicer does a delightful job of keeping the lighting such that nothing is felt unintentional. All of it adds up to making the film a stunning visual treat and also a contender for most effective, fright-filled, mind-fuckery in recent memory.
The scene with the ‘Tattoos‘ neon sign-board flashing outside the window is absolutely lovely, intrinsically evil, complexly structured to create immense tension, and so is Teresa Palmer, absolutely lovely, as Rebecca Wells, the daughter, trying to dodge the evil (Dirty) Diana, by trying to stay out of the darkness with her life hanging by the neon bursts of the tattoo parlor. The scene cannot be denied the visceral reactions it seizes from the audience.
How long has it been since the staircase scene in A History of Violence? They grow old fast; I’m talking about Bello playing mum to the thirty-year-old Palmer.
Director David F. Sandberg and screenwriter Eric Heisserer succeed in telling a horror story with almost everything thrown in for terrific measures, stratagems with unraveling emotional bonds, a primal fear, and taking a jab at the keen viewer’s sanity. Plus, it is all over in just 81 minutes. They don’t try to tell jokes but have the sense to humor their own actors (Exhibit A: Opening Sequence). They don’t fool around, get straight to the linear point, create old-school scares with minimalist frights, at the cost of coming across as a film with traditional horror movie clichés.
This creates an overall unnerving atmosphere of dread and disease (no matter how overused); playing with the viewer’s fear of the dark (“I have a constant fear that something’s always near – you…”), the fear of the unknown like manic depression and how all your imaginary friends, who you can’t live without are constantly attacking your loved ones. Something like The Babadook.
It also reminded this mountain-man of A Nightmare on Elm Street, where the kids cannot go to sleep or Freddy will slaughter them during REM. Here, the film’s screenplay focuses on how the players must always be present in a well-lit place, to evade (Dirty) Diana. They use candles, a dark-light, flashlights, cellphones, the car headlights are kept on until the battery dies.
The idea is to survive by not letting it become dark under any fucking circumstances, which is relatively way easier than having to stay awake for three years, until part III, Dream Warriors, 1987. That’s three damn years of no sleep. Sleep deprivation can cause death in three days, says Professor Allan Rechtschaffen. And the franchise just proved that coffee, methylphenidate, soda, cocaine, Red Bull (or Kool-Aid or Jolt Soda, whatever it was the fuck that they took to keep awake back then); no matter what you do, or the kids do or ingest will help them stay awake. Wes Craven and Sam Raimi and William Freidkin, and many others, really changed the game back when Disco was the thing to shake to.
The Mustache and the tall mohawk, the puffed up, high-top fades, Pontiacs, and of course, Disco.
The Hemingway Principle is used here to seal the deal, which is pretty risky but here it managed to recover all production costs on the first day it opened in cinemas. It also raised concerns about the film promoting suicide, which may or may not be the case here. It is there, I believe, but as a plot device, without which, the film would not have been able to end on a note, where everyone, well, almost everyone goes home happy and scared. The film is, after all, analogous to themes of depression and mental illness, like how it was in Daniel Isn’t Real. It is torn from the inside.
Unnerving, superbly crafted with Samara peeking out from some old case files that are getting yellow with age. Nevermind; with other aspects of the film being genuinely scary, that one little bit can be under rug swept.
A must watch.
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