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Review: Lights Out – “A smart supernatural jump machine”

Lights Out is written and directed by David F. Sandberg and based on his own short of the same name. This feature length adaptation is produced by modern horror master James Wan (Saw, Insidious, The Conjuring), and stars Teresa Palmer (Warm Bodies) and Maria Bello (A History of Violence).

After a brilliant opening sequence that sees Bella’s dad from Twilight (Billy Burke) stalked through the shadows and moments of darkness between his motion activated lights, we meet Rebecca (Palmer) – a commitmentphobe with a cool boyfriend, Bret (Alexander DiPersia). Rebecca left home due to her depressed mum, Sophie (Bello), whose behaviour is worryingly erratic when she is off her meds. But in bailing Rebecca left her little brother Martin (Gabriel Bateman – Annabelle) alone with mum, her problems, and… DIANA.

Diana (awesome stunt woman Alicia Vela-Bailey) is a ghost, demon, monster, thing obsessed with Sophie and extremely fond of scaring the complete bejeesus out of her kids. When it becomes clear that she now has Martin in her sights, Rebecca returns home to try and protect her little brother, and hopefully solve the secret that binds together the dark and deadly Diana and her terrified mother.

Diana can only appear and move in the dark which makes for some wicked set piece scares. Sandberg has a penchant for intimidating spaces and flickering lights, and his lingering shots of open doors and long corridors and slooowly turning door knobs will pound the life out of your heart. The dangerously sustained threat in scenes like a bravura blacklight sequence featuring solid ultraviolet scares must have made producer Wan very proud. Pairing this with a properly scary monster who is surrounded by an enticing mystery makes for a great set up that Sandberg fully delivers on.

Lights Out’s leads are all excellent. Poor Billy Burke only gets a limited amount of screen time but kicks things off with a quality that continues to pervade. Bello is wonderful as the damaged Sophie who no longer knows what is and isn’t real, and if she is being haunted or losing her mind. Palmer is a strong and likeable lead – spiky yet protective of her surprisingly un-annoying little brother, and supportive and rad boyfriend.

Lights Out is a smart supernatural jump machine with great leads and plenty of promise for director David F. Sandberg who has Annabelle 2 up next.

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