Lights out has a very simple but good premise that sadly has not been capitalized on properly. Director David F. Sandberg failed to translate his own short into a full length feature film. Watch it underneath here to see how effective it is:
So what went wrong? If you just watched the short which is just around 2 minutes you will notice that most of the duration is spent on building up tension by doing very little. In the film he forgets to do this and goes for the quick jump scares that are so predictable and loud and therefore far from effective. Actually the film rarely takes time to set up the mood and atmosphere. Which is rather odd since the premise begs for it. Next to the original premise they have implemented a storyline where mother Sophie (played by Mario Bello) is suffering from schizophrenia. While that plot device is overused it still could have instilled doubt and fear to the audience. By making question whether you can trust your eyes or not. Is what we see real or are we being duped here into thinking it's real since characters Rebecca and Bret (played by Teresa Palmer) also are schizophrenic like their mother. It would have added a dimension on top of the simple but creepy premise. Instead the disease is used as an excuse for the spirit to appear and nothing else. Even then they could have added some more background and motivation of why this was the case. That for me is always the most interesting in horror films that deal with demons and ghosts.
The actors do their best to make everything believable but they are let down by the poor script and the inexperience of David F. Sandberg to give them enough reason to be terrified. Until the last ten minutes because then the film does improve somewhat by giving us what he should have done in the first place. Which is to play around with the light and darkness mechanic. I really would not have mind the whole movie being like that. Since then the darkness truly would be something you dread. Remember Dead Silence? Everything was fine and dandy until the sound was muted. It was the moment bad and scary things would happen. The second you heard the clock stopping and the sound dying down you were bracing yourself of what was to come. Here they could have reached the same effect by making the characters aware of the phenomenon and set them up so that for some reason they are unable to leave the house. Thus motivating them to do what they can to keep the lights on. But despite their efforts the lights would go out randomly which would force them to battle it with the ghost, demon or whatever it is. If the characters constantly would be put on edge like I just described or by what occurs in the finale then it would have been a far better film. David F. should have stuck to what he knows and done so well in the short.
A real shame that this film has failed to get the most from the premise. I truly wanted this one to succeed. But perhaps Sandberg will redeem himself with Annabelle 2. One can hope right?