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Garbriel Bateman as Martin. Picture: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

Lights Out is a fresh and compact horror flick, holding its fort in the swamp of half-assed efforts we’ve seen hitting the big screen this year.

The Conjuring 2, The Boy . . . they were both bad, the first twisting and swaying in the footsteps of The Exorcist (1973) and the latter trying to fill the small shoes of Chucky the doll from Child’s Play (1998) with sweaty, hairy, man feet.


The origins of Lights Out already differ from the mass; it started out as a candidate in a competition for 3-minute horror films. The Swedish short director, David F. Sandberg, participated in the contest with shortie where a lady sees a scary character in the dark after switching off the lights. In light the monster disappears, in the dark it appears again. The video went viral on the internet and Sandberg was named the Best Director.

The concept of the shortie is also the very foundation for the feature film, penned by screenwriter Eric Heisserer, who wrote A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) reboot and sci-fi horror film The Thing (2011).

Lights Out is based on the life of a young boy, Martin (Gabriel Bateman), and his mother, Sophie (Maria Bello), who hangs on the slippery edge of sanity. When the lights go off, a mysterious character appears – visible for both. Despite the mother’s efforts to protect her son, Martin is on the verge of shitting in his pants (I would too), so he decides to call help from his hot big sister, Rebecca (Teresa Palmer), in her mid-20s. The monster, however, will not leave the family alone, so Rebecca, who also has recollections of the monster from her childhood, decides to investigate into the matter.

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Lights Out turns the concept of being afraid of the dark into a real scare-fest. A recollection of the soundscape of the monster in the dark clawing the floor and walls in the dark cinema in surround sound still raises the hair on my feet. Marc Spicer’s camerawork is skillful and supports holding the suspense, which in the editing room turned into quick cuts and sudden bursts of danger.

Better buy some Jesus tape before going to the cinema this weekend. You may want to tape the light switch for the days to come.

Lights Out premieres in cinemas July 22.