An intriguing idea quickly falls apart in “Lights Out,” the new horror film from David F. Sandberg.
It seems to rely way too much on the horror genre cliche handbook, which ultimately leaves the tension at a minimum when it should have been much more.
“Lights Out” tells the story of Rebecca (Teresa Palmer), who is still scarred from an entity that tormented her as a young girl.
When her younger brother Martin (Gabriel Bateman) starts to experience the same things she did, Rebecca decides to intervene, only to discover the entity has a connection to their mother, Sophie (Maria Bello).
“Lights Out” is Sandberg’s first feature film after a handful of shorts, and the director has a nice sense of how to build a horror scene. He works well with shadows and darkness in such a way that there are a few good bumps and scares along the way.
But the story quickly fades – even at a brisk 81-minute run time – with the amount of questionable actions by the characters quickly mounting.
Alexander DiPersia is refreshing as Rebecca’s potential boyfriend – and perhaps the only sensible character in the film.
My biggest problem comes from the way Martin’s character is constantly put in peril, particularly by the actions of Sophie. I understand that it happens in the genre all the time (with the recent “The Conjuring 2” a perfect example), but something here just struck me with unease.
It also doesn’t help “Lights Out” that the link between Sophie and the entity is pretty bland once it is revealed. I feel like if “Lights Out” had gotten a little more creative with the backstory it could have been a little better. Instead, it’s just a conventional horror film that will likely be forgotten as soon as the lights come on.
DVD dandy of the week
This week’s dandy is “Sing Street” (A), the third film from writer/director John Carney, which is still my favorite film of 2016.
Set in Ireland the mid-1980s, “Sing Street” tells the story of Cosmo (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), whose world is coming undone with his parents broke and close to divorce.
Cosmo is forced to change schools and finds himself as an outcast at first, but things change when he meets Raphina (Lucy Boynton), a girl who lives in an orphanage across the street from the school.
Determined to impress Raphina, Cosmo forms a band with several classmates. With the help of his older brother Brendan (Jack Reynor), Cosmo soon discovers that music might help him get the girl and also provide a way to find comfort in a home life that is crumbling around him.
Like his first two films, “Once” and “Begin Again,” Carney relies heavily on music to drive the story. The story is reported to be semi-autobiographical, with Carney drawing on his own experiences to create a film that feels like something the late John Hughes would have made.
What makes “Sing Street” work so well is that love for music Carney brings and his determination to have these kids love and appreciate the music as well. These kids prove to be not only good actors, but good singers as well, with catchy pop tunes that help to accentuate the film’s charm.
You get a music video shoot that provides plenty of visual laughs, while being smart and creative, and a sequence that pays homage to the prom scene in “Back to the Future,” which is my favorite scene from any film in 2016.
If you were a child of the 1980s or are looking for a romantic nostalgia piece, this is a film that is arriving on home video you should seek out now.
“Sing Street” is rated PG-13 for thematic elements including strong language and some bullying behavior, a suggestive image, drug material and teen smoking and will be available on DVD on Tuesday.