Lights Out is a Babadook-ified mainstream horror movie. Like The Babadook, a decent horror movie that progressively got less scary, Lights Out uses a monster as a metaphor for psychological distress. In The Babadook the ailment was grief, in Lights Out it is clinical depression. The monster in Lights Out only exists in the shadows and haunts a fractured family—the father has run off or died, the mom (Maria Bello) suffers from mental illness. This leaves a tween boy, overacted by Gabriel Bateman, and his sister (Teresa Palmer). The sister’s character is the most interesting: her room is adorned in heavy metal iconography and she lives alone atop a tattoo parlor; in her relationship with a nice guy (Alexander DiPersia) the gender roles have been reversed as she’s clearly occupying the role of the uncommitted male. Yet writer/director David F. Sandberg does little to probe her dark side. Instead she’s forced to solve a mystery: the origins of the monster haunting her family. She solves it in one fell swoop too early in the film, leaving us with little to be curious about, except how the monster may be neutralized. Along the way to its Fight Club-esque conclusion Lights Out offers a few good scares—but don’t feel like you have to go out of your way to see them, or this movie.
By Alec Julian & Carrie White