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A girl (Teresa Palmer) who always thought her childhood experiences with a supernatural being that haunts her mentally unstable mother (Maria Bello) wasn’t real has to protect herself and save her little half-brother (Gabriel Bateman) when the frightening entity resurfaces with a thirst for blood.
Lights Out review in a nutshell
Looks scary. (Literally. I watched it without sound, and I found it terrifying.)
Would I recommend you to watch it?
Only if you’re a fan of horror. But since I usually avoid horror movies, you can tell me if it’s really as frightening as I thought it to be, or if I’m just being a scaredy cat.
Otherwise, continue reading for a full, spoiler-filled review.
Full review of Lights Out (with little to no spoilers)
I generally avoid horror movies the same way I avoid haunted houses and hurricanes, but I happened to watch Lights Out on the plane on my recent trip to the UK, and thought it was really good. The person diagonal to my front left was watching it with English subtitles, and I could not help but catch glimpses of it through the armrest gap of the seats.
The concept of Lights Out is simple: the ghost appears when the lights are off, but when you switch them on, she disappears. Switch them off, she reappears, closer to you than before. She also inhabits the dark shadows of dim rooms. Since the reason I avoid horror movies is because my overactive imagination makes me imagine things when I’m alone in the dark, this movie should bring my worst nightmares to life. But Diana, the ghost in this movie, is linked specifically to Sophie (Maria Bello), the mother of the protagonist Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) and her younger brother Martin (Gabriel Bateman). It made it easier to stomach, since my parents have no such imaginary friends as Diana, so I feel safe at least.
Rebecca always had an estranged relationship with her mother, who wasn’t mentally stable to begin with, after her father disappeared when she was young. When her stepfather dies (killed by the ghost, though they don’t know it yet), and her younger brother complains of insomnia after he is frightened by the same ghost and sees their mother talking to her imaginary friend Diana, Rebecca thinks her mother is deliberately not taking her meds again and being a bad mother to Martin. But one night, Rebecca sees the ghost appearing and disappearing when the lights blink on and off in her apartment, and she is terrorised by it. She and her boyfriend Bret (Alexander DiPersia) discover that her mother isn’t delusional after all, and Diana is connected to Sophie’s past.
Even without sound, I found the movie scary. The images of a skeletal dark figure disappearing and reappearing closer and closer to the foreground of the shot (and therefore closer and closer to me, the viewer) are horrifying enough even without sound effects and a chilling score. But the story hooked me, which was why I continued sneaking frequent glances at my neighbour’s screen despite wishing I could look away completely. If I had internet connection on the flight, I would have wiki-ed the movie synopsis and been done with it, but I couldn’t. With sound, I bet the movie is even more terrifying. (Unless I’m just a scaredy-cat, and horror aficionados don’t find the movie frightening. I wouldn’t know — I have zero tolerance for horror movies, and don’t intend to build any.)
Where to watch Lights Out
Streaming services: Lights Out is on HBO Max, HBO GO and HBO NOW, but not Netflix Singapore or US, Amazon Prime Video, or Hulu.