“Lights Out” review: A creature with the not-so-frightening name Diana haunts an old house with loose-limbed abandon. Rating: 2½ out of 4 stars.
Even run-of-the-mill ghosts can be terrifying, but “Lights Out” introduces us to a new and even more chilling breed: the specter who is, apparently, a graduate of the Martha Graham Dance School. This creature, known as Diana, flings herself around a requisite creepy-old-house with wild, loose-limbed abandon — crouching, arching, leaping, neck-snapping, hair-flailing. I found myself hoping that she had a ghost massage therapist tucked away in a closet somewhere.
That said, “Lights Out” is an effective, tidy little chiller; basically the same sneak-up-in-the-dark scare over and over. But hey, as we’ve learned through decades of horror movies, that stuff works. At the core of this story is a wounded family: emotionally fragile mother Sophie (Maria Bello, in madwoman-in-the-attic mode), her estranged 20-ish daughter Rebecca (Teresa Palmer), and her 10-year-old son Martin (Gabriel Bateman), who’s frightened and sleepless due to things going bump (and screech) in the night. Rebecca, who lives on her own, gets drawn back into the drama, enlisting her boyfriend Bret (Alexander DiPersia) to help her dispatch the ghost once and for all.
The actors are well cast, and director David F. Sandberg takes what’s essentially a silly story and makes it shivery and sometimes even surprising. (If I’d placed a bet on who would still be standing by the end, I’d have lost my money.)
Movie Review ★★½
‘Lights Out,’ with Teresa Palmer, Maria Bello, Gabriel Bateman, Billy Burke, Alexander DiPersia. Directed by David F. Sandberg, from a screenplay by Eric Heisserer, based on Sandberg’s short film. 80 minutes. Rated PG-13 for terror throughout, violence including disturbing images, some thematic material and brief drug content. Several theaters.
For the inevitable sequel, I’m hoping for a ballet ghost. Who knows what else is lurking in Sophie’s basement?
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