U.S. Release Date: 7/22/16
Before making his directorial debut with Lights Out – a horror thriller which gives a brand new twist to our fear of the dark – David F. Sandberg had never visited a film set. In fact, he was so new to the moviemaking world, he didn’t know when to yell ‘Action.’
For Sandberg, the journey to Hollywood began in 2013 when he first made Lights Out as a two and a half minute short. The short promptly went viral on the web, grabbed the attention of James Wan – the director of two The Conjuring movies, among other titles, and ended up as a full blown feature film.
With a $5 million budget, the film, produced by Wan, invokes an extremely deadly entity – capable of feeding off the darkness in the same way that a vampire feeds on its victim’s lifeblood – which can only be seen when all lights are off.
The chill factor is upped by Sandberg’s insistence on showing the entity entirely in silhouette. Sure, we see piercing eyes, scraggly hair and some very long fingernails, but Sandberg clearly goes for the ‘less is more’ route. The less we see, the more frightening the threat becomes.
With the stark exception of Alien and other classics, the level of fear, in a good chunk of movies, is greatly reduced, or sometimes completely eliminated, when the full-on creature finally shows up. Sandberg, by contrast, keeps things in the shadows.
At the center of Lights Out, scripted by Eric Heisserer, is Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) – who has run away from Sophie (Maria Bello), her estranged mother, and has instead opted for her own downtown pad. Dad, it turns out, is no longer in the picture, and her younger brother Martin is petrified of Mom’s increasingly creepy behavior.
Sophie, a former psychiatric patient, keeps the entire house in a state of permanent darkness, and frequently talks to Diana, a childhood friend long dead.
Bello gives a convincing and solid performance as the unhinged mother who understands that the terrifying events are not just down to her imagination. Also, the film successfully shows the effects of mental health on a family, highlights the emotional strain endured by those who are desperately trying to accept it, and shows what can happen when certain professionals, entrusted with caring for patients, cause things to go horribly wrong.
Sandberg is currently in the middle of shooting Annabelle 2, the franchise revolving around a doll possessed by a demonic entity. Given his directorial skills on Lights Out, one hopes the second Annabelle will supersede its weak predecessor. This is definitely a director to watch, and we can’t wait to see what other terrors he has in store.
Studio: Warner Bros
Director: David F. Sandberg
Stars: Teresa Palmer, Gabriel Bateman, Billy Burke, Alexander DiPersia and Maria Bello
Screenwriter: Eric Heisserer
Producers: James Wan, Lawrence Grey and Eric Heisserer
Executive Producers: Walter Hamada, Dave Neustadter and Richard Brener
Image Info: Caption: (L-r) Gabriel Bateman as Martin and Teresa Palmer as Rebecca in New Line Cinema’s horror film “Lights Out,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. © 2016 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Ratpac-Dune Entertainment LLC All Rights Reserved. Photo Credit: Ron Batzdorff