REVIEW: Lights Out [2013]

Score: 7/10 | ★ ★ ★

Rating: NR | Runtime: 3 minutes | Release Date: December 30th, 2013 (Sweden)
Director(s): David F. Sandberg
Writer(s): David F. Sandberg

It’s a bona fide YouTube to Hollywood transformation story for David F. Sandberg who along with actress Lotta Losten has been creating ultra-short horror treatments on both the Google-owned platform and Vimeo since 2013. It started with Cam Closer and has continued all the way into this year with Closet Space en route to his digital award-winning Lights Out earning a big screen, feature length adaptation (and the director’s chair to another James Wan-produced picture in Annabelle 2). These things are around three minutes long and they pack in creepy dread and jump scares to build a mood and nightmarish vision above story.

Lights Out takes place in the hallway and bedroom of Losten’s “Woman’s” home on a non-descript night. On her way to tuck in, she hits the switch to find a silhouette at the far end of the hall. She does it again and again until it’s suddenly only a foot from her grasp. Frightened and confused, she runs to her bed and hides under the covers as her lights extinguish. The floorboards creak, her door swings wide, and when she’s sure the terror is over it reveals that it’s only just begun. There’s no dialogue—only labored breath, external sound effects, and screams. Something unwelcome is present and we’re unsure whether this woman can survive it.

The atmosphere trumps all with subtly effective, seamless cuts from light to dark and special effects creating the creature hiding within the shadows. There’s a definite grasp on composition and pacing as Sandberg shows his proficiency with the genre, his eventual discovery by Wan and Warner Bros hardly surprising. I’m excited to see what he’s able to do with 80-minutes and a story because this monster’s conceit is rather cool—hopefully cool enough to overcome its expansion beyond tricks. A lot of horrors do find success in the visual aesthetic, though, and this Swede has the potential to bring that style to the table so any content missteps can be forgiven.

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