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With: Teresa Palmer, Gabriel Bateman, Alexander DiPersia, Billy Burke, Maria Bello, Alicia Vela-Bailey, Andi Osho
Written by: David F. Sandberg, Eric Heisserer
Directed by: David F. Sandberg
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for terror throughout, violence including disturbing images, some thematic material and brief drug content
Running Time: 81
Date: 07/22/2016

Lights Out (2016)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Switch Hunters

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This simple but effective horror movie seems to do everything exactly right. Lights Out is smart, clever, and very scary, and doesn't bother with any of the lazy, cynical stuff associated with the genre today.

A man (Billy Burke), concerned about the well-being of his sick wife Sophie (Maria Bello) and scared son Martin (Gabriel Bateman), is attacked and killed by a terrifying creature that only seems to exist in the dark. At home, young Martin is also terrorized by the creature and calls his rebellious older half-sister, Rebecca (Teresa Palmer), for help.

Accompanied by her kind, patient boyfriend Bret (Alexander DiPersia), Rebecca learns that the creature was once a woman called Diana, who had a brutal childhood and with a chronic sensitivity to light. She also learns that Diana was once Sophie's friend, and that Sophie may have something to do with Diana's reign of terror. Can Sophie's kids stay in the light long enough to defeat the monster?

Written and directed by David F. Sandberg — a maker of spooky short films in his feature debut — and co-written by veteran horror screenwriter Eric Heisserer (Final Destination 5, and the remakes of A Nightmare on Elm Street and The Thing), Lights Out starts by creating a great new movie monster. They establish clear rules for their Diana, and then run with every conceivable variation on their idea; the movie is full of unexpected surprises.

With strong performances, especially by standouts Teresa Palmer and Maria Bello, the characters are sharply drawn and sympathetic. They also behave logically, and even when they go into the dark, scary basement, it's only to look for the fuse box. The movie even avoids the usual, annoying, fake "look out for the sequel" ending. It's the rare horror movie that shows its audience respect and delivers a quality tricky treat.

Warner Home Video has released a fine Blu-ray edition, just in time for Halloween. The trick with this one is finding a good contrast between darkness and light, and the team has pulled it off nicely, with excellent sound to boot. The only extra is about 14 minutes of deleted scenes, as well as optional language and subtitle tracks. A digital copy is included. This may be my favorite horror movie of the year, so don't miss it!

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