Lights Out follows an estranged daughter (Rebecca) who returns home to care for her half-brother (...or step-brother...or brother-brother...I can't remember...), Martin, after he begins having insomnia following a traumatic experience with their mother and an apparition. When Rebecca recalls a similar malevolent force when she was younger, she tries to save her family from the horror that plagued her as a child.
Lights Out was based on the short story of the same name. Arguably one of the most effective scares in recent short film history, it was a pleasant surprise to see it pick up funding for a full-length feature. It was also concerning, since there is literally no story to base anything off of, and the scare gag has already been used to great effect. So what is to be gained by making a full-length feature?
(Here's the original short for your viewing pleasure:)
Regardless of the hesitancy towards the decision, the film looked promising upon the release of the trailer. Though it had elements of a mainstream horror cog, the scare tactics appeared as effective as the short, and teased a story that just might introduce a fun concept.
The film itself fell on the middle ground of expectations. It didn't impress, but it was far from a disappointment. The scares were great, and the film was quite relentless with them, which is a pleasant change from most mainstream horror films that tend to have the mystery-solving lull in the second act.
Our villain, the ghost Diana, moves like Japanese horror tropes of old, but is still menacing and terrifying in her own right. The film's treatment of light as a defense mechanism is utilized well throughout, while the story teases reasoning behind the light concept. However, it's this teasing that I eventually find offense with, as it kills the plot's progression.
We quickly learn early on that Diana can only be seen and can only cause harm in the dark. In the light, she disappears and is essentially harmless. As the climax merges into play, our protagonist, Rebecca, discovers that blacklight can leave Diana visible and corporeal, and that she can then be harmed and perhaps even killed. I loved the revelation of this concept, giving the protagonists a means to fight back. But as the film reaches its final scene, this blacklight concept is dismissed for an entirely psychological and supernatural solution. The mother is the link to Diana's existence, and so if she dies, Diana dies. The mother then shoots herself, essentially ending Diana as well.
The reason this conclusion upset me is the lead up to it was poorly constructed. Yes, the mother stops taking her pills and they briefly discuss Diana's history of being able to manipulate minds...but how does this lead to her infiltrating the mother's mind and being able to live on through the mother? Why, then, does she have supernatural rules (the light) that she has to live by? What was the point of the light experiments performed on Diana that eventually led to her "death"? I put "death" in quotes because I felt like that would have been a much more interesting and enjoyable concept to pursue...What if the experiments on Diana caused her to enter some type of light-sensitive state, and she followed the mother around because of her obsession with her? While this would cause some reevaluation of the mother's link to Diana, it would give a rather intriguing explanation to Diana's weakness.
I feel like two endings were spun in the middle of this tale and one came out abruptly in the end with little reasoning. Perhaps it was meant to feel like a twist ending, or that my focus on the light experiments on Diana as a child was too significant and I removed myself from the story incidentally. Either way, my personal experience was lesser for it, but I still found that, as a whole, and as a horror movie, Lights Out was more entertaining than disappointing.