“Put the horror back in horror” Lights Out review


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Looking back on it, I’m not so sure that I liked It Follows as much as I thought I did. While it is tense and much smarter than the average modern horror, there’s not much in the way of scares and it’s got a very ho-hum anti-climax.

Aside from that really good beach scene, it’s mostly an inferior version of Under The Skin. And yet if you read reviews or went on the internet, It Follows was the Second Coming of Horror Christ. The Witch was pretty similar, a film I enjoyed but thought was just good being lauded as a masterpiece. Why?

Actually, the answer is pretty simple. Because modern mainstream horror is bad bad bad bad bad bad baaaaaaaaaaaaaaad, It Follows and The Witch look like Kubrick by comparison. Ouija, the first and third Purge movies, that stupid Conjuring spinoff. Unfriended was actually one of the better horror movies of last year and that’s sad. Because all horror movies released nowadays are the SAME horror movie.

Quick, name a horror movie made in the last five years where the villain wasn’t a ghost. And in addition, it is always the same ghost; a ratty looking person (preferably a child, sometimes a very old woman) screaming very loudly. It must be horrible being a hairdresser in a horror movie, what with all of the bird nests that you have to work with.

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Photo by Warner Bros. Entertainment.

It’s good then to have Lights Out as a marriage between beloved horror flicks and bad modern horror, in that it’s highly praised by Reddit and I think it’s not very good. Based on a beloved short film that I thought was actually unintentionally hilarious, Lights Out is a film that does have flashes of brilliance but is so buried in cliches that finding something good in this film requires an archaeological dig.

So, very quickly, let’s play a quick game of Hollywood Horror Bingo. The villain is the ghost (1 point) of a mental patient (1 point) with a skin condition (oooh, bonus points) who was evil for no adequately explained reason (1 point) and accidentally killed by her doctors (more bonus points for it being an experimental treatment). We have two ultra-cliched protagonists; the goth chick (1 point) with mother issues (x2 bonus) and her younger brother, a scared 10-year old boy (3 points).

After their father dies (1 point) and their creepy mother goes off her medication (ultra combo!) they are plagued by the ghost who has a mysterious connection to the family (x3 bonus) and wants the mother all to herself. Add one point for each jump scare (all 15,000 of them) and for every weak-sauce bloodless kill (which, to spoil, this film has a grand total of four, and the monster doesn’t even get all of them. Michael Myers killed more people on his way to the toilet)

The thing with modern horror is that it’s designed to reassure people. It’s like a ghost train; you’re spooked, you scream, then you laugh about it and go to work and talk about how silly you were for being scared. It’s why most of the horror cinema releases I see nowadays are filled with couples on dates. And that’s ok, I guess, if that’s what you’re looking for, but the best horror should leave you as a fundamentally worse person after watching it. It’s supposed to be damaging and challenging and icky. Saw has ended up embarrassing modern horror out of using gore, but honestly, it’s more to do with the fact that we can’t cope with the uncanny and the ghoulishly horrible, because it breaks that reassuring fantasy, and we can’t deal with metaphor.

And this film is so hurt by that. There’s a semi-interesting metaphor throughout the first half of the film dealing with depression and people who don’t take medication, but the film is, perhaps ironically, so frightened of leaving any of its audience unnerved that it drops it before the climax and by the end completely botches it in a way that you wonder what the filmmakers were even thinking.

And that’s how it goes; good performances, decent effects, a clever concept and something close to a cool analogy, all drowned in cliche to make this one of the most disappointing releases of the year. Maybe just watch It Follows again. At least it puts the horrible back in horror.

Category Scoring out of 5 ⭐
Story/Plot
Acting/Vocal Performance ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Special Effects/Cinematography ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Soundtrack ⭐ ⭐
Costume/Design ⭐ 1/2
Script/Dialogue ⭐ 1/2
RATING ⭐ ⭐

But that’s not all from Rob. No, if you want to hear more complaining, then tune in to this week’s Battleship Potemkast:

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