REVIEW: Poorly Handled Subtext Pulls The Plug On ‘Lights Out’

“Lights Out” likely could have been a better horror flick if it had handled one aspect better.

The movie centers around the character Rebecca, played by Teresa Palmer. Rebecca is trying to make the best of what she has in life but is troubled by her mother’s clinical depression and the effects it has on her younger brother, Martin (Gabriel Bateman).

The situation becomes extraordinarily worse when Martin sees his mother, Sophie (Maria Bello) speaking to some sort of dark being and it doesn’t take long for Rebecca to believe him.

The film has an idea that’s been used before, a monster that can’t enter the light. For example, “Darkness Falls” immediately comes to mind. However, credit has to go to the filmmakers for taking that idea and making a character driven horror around it.

The movie both gives the family, as well as Rebecca’s boyfriend, some depth while also giving some time to dig into the history of the monster, without over explaining the lore.

There are a few lulls in the picture, though, which should never happen in a movie that clocks in under an hour and a half.

However, the biggest problem with the movie, more so than some of it just being a tad boring, was the handling of the subtext.

What’s really clear in “Lights Out” is that the evil entity is more or less a metaphor for depression or a mental illness in general.

While this is an interesting idea to add to a movie, the execution in “Lights Out” is poor. Not only is the mother’s mental illness displayed as a type of burden on the rest of the family, but the ending tries to show a solution to the problem that’s downright despicable.

It’s a real shame, too, because the movie does include great performances all around. Palmer is very strong in the lead role and Bateman is fantastic.

The ending to “Lights Out” make it a bit divisive and some may be able to overlook it. In all fairness, as just a horror movie, “Lights Out” is fine.

The jump scares featured are fun and well placed, the evil creature looks frightening and there’s a lot of suspense. In that sense, it does what it sets out to do. However, the movie did add a specific layer of subtext and it was wasn’t handled with the care it required. 2 out of 5.

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Author: Matthew Liedke

My name is Matthew Liedke. I'm a reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer in Minnesota, but I also have a passion for the art of film. This passion led me to start writing about film in 2008. From 2008-2016 I wrote pieces at my own website, After the Movie Reviews. Then, from 2016-May 2018, my write-ups were featured on AreaVoices, a blog network run by Forum Communications Company. Today, I now write film reviews and other pieces here on Word Press. More about me: I'm a 2012 graduate of Minnesota State University Moorhead where I studied journalism and film. Outside of film, I enjoy sports, video games, anime and craft beers.

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