Blu-ray Review: Lights Out

By , Contributor
By combining economical storytelling and committed performances with our collective, time-tested fear of the dark, director David F. Sandberg has crafted a scary winner with Lights Out. Clocking in at a brisk 81 minutes, the summer horror hit (now available on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment) serves up a clever, simple story. Its climax dares to mix heroism with tragedy, which gives the film unexpected emotional weight. Eric Heisserer's screenplay is based on Sandberg's original short film of the same name. Sadly, that original short is not included in the bonus features. It would've been interesting to compare. 
 
lights out teresa palmer.jpg At any rate Lights Out tells the story of Sophie (Maria Bello), a mom of two with a habit of speaking to an imaginary friend. Curiously she only speaks to this "friend," who she calls Diana, while shrouded in darkness. This habit has left her estranged from her grown daughter Rebecca (Teresa Palmer). Rebecca's much younger brother Martin (Gabriel Bateman) still lives with her mother. He's growing increasingly (and understandably) freaked out by his mom's bizarre behavior. Especially when he begins encountering a savage-looking female form—a mysterious apparition of sorts who vanishes in bright light.

No fair spilling the secrets of this exceedingly well-paced chiller. Rebecca, who has largely avoided her mother's home for years, teams with her sympathetic boyfriend Bret (Alexander DiPersia) to extract Martin from a dangerous situation while getting to the bottom of her mom's obsession. Screenwriter Heisserer and director Sandberg give us just enough to backstory to add some meat, but not enough to drag down the suspense. The leads all deliver believable work, especially young Bateman. His mature-beyond-his-years performances makes Martin's fright palpable. 
 
lights out gabriel bateman.jpg As for the Blu-ray itself, not only is Marc Spicer's moody cinematography perfectly presented, the lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround mix deserves special mention. The floorboard creaks, doorknob twists, and other atmospheric sounds are perfectly placed. There's a lot of rear channel activity that will have you worried there's something lurking in the dark corners of your house.

Despite its popularity (a sequel was green-lighted shortly after its opening weekend), Lights Out hasn't been graced with many Blu-ray features. In fact, there's one item—a selection of deleted scenes. Don't overlook this though. The first few clips are, in fact, your basic deleted scenes. But the bulk of this 14 minute reel (the scenes are not listed separately) is actually a long alternate ending. "Alternate" in the sense that apparently the ending we see in the finished film was originally the 'pre-ending,' with another ten minutes set to follow. Seeing those ten minutes really points out how much strong editorial choices can strengthen a film. Less is often more, and that's the case with Lights Out.
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Chaz Lipp is a Seattle-based freelance writer whose focus is music and film. As “The Other Chad,” he has written for the online magazine Blogcritics since 2008. When he’s not writing, Chaz can be found trolling jazz clubs, attempting to find somewhere to play his sax (whether anyone wants to hear…

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