John’s Horror Corner: Lights Out (2016), Mama meets the Babadook as we watch Wan’s new vengeful ghost.
MY CALL: This was the satisfying result of mixing the ghost from Mama (2013), the mother from The Babadook (2014) and a Springwood, Ohio address for that A Nightmare on Elm Street–iness (1984). Not original and quite predictable, yet still highly entertaining and creepy. MOVIES LIKE Lights Out: Mama (2013), The Babadook (2014) and The Boogeyman (2005). Even Carrie (2013) if you’re in the mood specifically for batshit crazy moms.
There’s really not much substance to this story. Martin (Gabriel Bateman; Annabelle) is a little boy living with his clearly mentally ill mother (Maria Bello; Secret Window, Demonic) and…let’s just say that her actions (or inaction, neglect, what have you) leave Martin fearing for his life, deathly afraid of the dark and falling asleep.
Having fled their mother years earlier over similar issues, Martin’s much older adult sister Rebecca (Teresa Palmer; Warm Bodies, Wolf Creek, The Grudge 2) steps in to protect Martin from their mother’s manic neglect and maybe something more.
It turns out that nightmares from Rebecca’s past are being relived by young Martin, who in turn has resurrected their evil’s attention to Rebecca. And that evil is something vile!
I was very pleased with the acting, good production value, and I thought the effects were everything they needed to be. Nothing seemed wanting, nor was there any need or desire for gore. Despite being limited to shadowy figures most of the time, our wicked phantom looked pretty awesomely creepy and, on that note, the creepy atmosphere was pretty effective.
If this movie feels a bit familiar to you, you’re not alone. I felt like our evil ghost twitched and burped about in the shadows a lot like Mama (2013) doing her best impression of The Grudge (2004) ghost, the mother had a slew of psychological issues like our favorite abusive mom in The Babadook (2014), and those close links between our victims’ fear of the dark reminded me a bit of The Boogeyman (2005) or, since James Wan (The Conjuring 1-2, Insidious 1-2) is this film’s producer, perhaps even Dead Silence (2007) when we see our haggish specter’s face. You might even feel some echoes of A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) in there—there were more than a few parallels.
Playfully renewing our fear of the dark with a series of predictable yet highly enjoyable jump scares, director David F. Sandberg’s (Annabelle 2) first feature length horror film pretty much plays it safe and by the numbers. But you know what? Sometimes that’s okay. Nothing great about this film, but I really enjoyed it. It was fun and I’d recommend it for a good popcorn horror night or fun scary movie date night.
This director handled his first mainstream horror gig very well, he embraced Wan’s horror influence, and I’m excited to see whatever he does next.