Lights Out review: Apt Symbolism

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Carry extra pants with you and think twice before taking kids, as the theater agents have confirmed on illiberal age restriction. As usual, the theater was filled with nervous audience muttering dry jokes and screaming occasionally. Lights out will scare you out of the seats but the intensity makes it a better experience for you.

Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) lived separately from her mother Sophie (Maria Bello) after being a victim of supernatural occurrences surrounding her mother’s eccentricities. Now her brother Martin (Gabriel Bateman) is in the same situation and she wants to protect him at all cost. What she doesn’t realize is how far Diana could come after her and her family.

Devoid of cheap scares and gory violence, just like conjuring, lights out is one of the most nerve-racking horror films and this is basically due to the fact that it highlights on the psychological move a person makes after watching  horror film; keeping the lights on. We have this affinity to stay in the light thinking that Samara or Bathsheba or Kayako is lurking somewhere in the dark. In lights out, we have a malevolent spirit named Diana who appears only in the dark. She disappears in the light and reappears when the bulb goes off.  And we have a scenario taking place during the thing that irritates an ordinary citizen to the core, power cut. A spark of light is enough to make her disappear to give one enough time to escape, therefore the light produced while shooting a gun does the same, with an adept technical crew working on it. The editor Michel Aller did a tremendous job to create the eerie preternatural environment, in addition to Marc Spicer’s deft cinematography. The build-up of the story is perfect and we won’t feel the passage of time. Even if you don’t find the film scary (which is literally impossible), it can be enjoyed as a suspense thriller due to the depth of the storyline. I sat there immobile the whole time, at times you will hold you breathe till the resolution though the plot was straight forward.

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What takes the kick is the symbolism. Sophie met Diana in a mental hospital while she was being treated for depression. Years later, Sophie wanted to redeem their friendship and thus she let Diana live with her; it made her abnormal with low esteem, lack of social relations and her kids are estranged from her. She breaks down for no reason and she thinks that Diana is her friend although she is visibly baleful and violent towards her and kids. She realizes the infelicitous situation she is, during Diana’s presence where she finds it difficult to talk properly and is visibly scared to death, she pleads for help from Rebecca. Her son realizes that they should help her and they team up to help Sophie overcome her problems. Yes, the movie is completely symbolic and is not limited to a horror genre. Diana, in this movie, is the symbolic representation of one of the most common forms of mental illness, Depression. Since many see it as a less severe issue, the consequences and issues faced by people living with a person suffering from the depression are delineated well in a horror context. The name “lights out” itself suggest the condition of depression. The light which affects the spirit symbolizes the cure as it represents “positivity”, “happiness” and “safety”. Which is why Diana’s spirit can’t tolerate light. Diana attacked Sophie whenever she had an episode. Diana’s father committed suicide because she is in his head too much, the ultimate result of depression is suicide. And, Diana simply wants to hurt Sophie for no reason even prevents her from taking meds, and Sophie thinks that she is her friend, indirectly implying how people fall into depression and their reluctance to take medications. Also, Rebecca’s boyfriend Bret (Alexander DiPersia) is shown to be fighting back by flashing light from his phone and, in an awesomely directed scenario, with his car light. Cars and phones are basically good fillers for individual’s leisure time. 😛

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Rebecca could be inheriting her mother’s illness but unlike Sophie, she fights back. She stands up for herself and her brother, inspiring him to face his fears and to fight back. Her brother finds it difficult to adapt but then he is the one confronts the reality; i.e. Diana is real, depression is real. Instead of pushing the person away, they have to reach out and help her the best way they could. Teresa Palmer is fantastic in her role with her frightened performance and controlled acting. She has come way back from her “bully” role in grudge 2. The way she held up with her integrity and her relation with her brother are the tip-top moments. Gabriel Bateman is outstanding and he has a very bright future before him as an actor. One of my most favorite aspects of this movie is the brother-sister relationship. Billy Burke was great as always and in his few moments, he managed to give us the necessary setup. Maria Bello was at her best. Her “depressed” state is up to the minutes with irregular speech patterns, inability to look people in the eye, and occasional breakdowns. I also liked Bret’s nature and his connection with Rebecca. Rebecca was unsure of how things will turn out between and if he simply lusted after her. But, after seeing that he never left her in spite of knowing about her mother’s illness, Rebecca decides work on her instincts and her share of loyalty as she always had feelings for him. Bret had the best moment from the movie; car scene. However, there are cliches in the movie, unnecessary and predictable scares which makes one say “yeah I saw it coming as we have seen it before“, dumb characters to fill time, characters brought in for the sake of bringing, who could have added more depth but disappears. Most frights work on the tradition of silence and “fooling” where the audience anticipates something  but, as it turns out, just a ruse. Along with the symbolism, build-up, and intense performances, the film is purely a proficient effort made by the technical staff, notably the editor who deserve an oscar nomination.

So, horror movie lovers go check it out. If you liked the conjuring you will love lights out. That being said, if you are looking for too many deaths, gory violence, and less morality, then it is not your cup of tea.

4.5/5

Featured image: youtube.com

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