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Categories: Movie Reviews

…and that’s a bad thing, by the way.


Lights Out is one of those films that doesn’t quite seem to understand what a metaphor is. Its central theme of mental health and depression is fairly glaring and consistently tasteless. It spends most of its time trying to rationalise its premise rather than playing with it or attempting to understand any kind of underlying meaning in it. It’s a gimmick.

The film personifies mental health issues and then uses it for cheap jump scares. The creature design is completely uninspired, it requires a hefty amount of disbelief suspension to be frightened of something that looks like it was copy and pasted from a folder marked “ghostly female horror antagonist template”.

It’s a film built around a single premise and the premise is neither original nor is it particularly intimidating. Channel hop through daytime TV supernatural detective shows and you will find something pretty much identical. If you’ve ever watched Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Doctor Who, The X-Files or any of the legions of TV shows that they have inspired then you will be unable to shake the feeling that this 76 minute long film is about 30 minutes too long.

The film desperately wants you to be invested in its characters but, aside from being one-note, they constantly make completely illogical decisions. It’s hard to be invested in the survival of a person who has no personality and is more incompetent than you can reasonably believe an incompetent person could be.


Lights Out wants to have its cake and eat it too. It wants you to consider the threat of the film to be both physical and psychological but instead of creating a story that allows for both of those things to be true, which would require skill and subtlety, this film just makes its ridiculous premise real within the film’s universe and then repeatedly slaps you in the face with psychiatric double entendres. Which could be fun if they amounted to anything.

Similar to another morally dumbfounding film of 2016, Me Before You, there appears to be a bemusing advocation of suicide and little else in terms of a lesson. Teresa Palmer’s protagonist clearly needs to resolve her troubled relationship with her mother yet finds no catharsis. Her little brother is at best a sidekick and at worst a prop, as are most of the other named characters. People act in service to the script and nothing else.

If you want to watch a scary film that takes horror from otherworldly elements and psychological examination then there are numerous examples from the past few years alone that do a considerably better job. Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook and Mike Flanagan’s Oculus are films with similar themes that were made on similar budgets, by filmmakers with an equal level of experience, and display infinitely more talent in every aspect of production.

The film’s 76% on Rotten Tomatoes is frankly baffling and serves as another blemish upon an aggregate system that clearly has issues beyond angry comic book fanboys. Lights Out is not a film that I can in good conscious call worth anyone’s time. It is flat, unoriginal and devoid of higher meaning. Taking an issue like mental health and using it as seasoning for a bland premise is not only wilfully arrogant and slightly offensive it’s, rather ironically, a little depressing.

Lights Out is out on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK on December 12th.

Mark Birrell

Mark is the editor of The Spread as well as a freelance copywriter and lifelong cinephile. For writing enquiries, you can email him at mark@cinemajam.com and you can follow him on Twitter @markwbirrell

Posted on Nov 7, 2016

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