*** out of four
Lights Out is a compact and effective little chiller. It has a short and sweet running time of just 81-minutes and has its share of creepy moments and mild jump scares.
Young Martin (Gabriel Bateman) is terrorized by a wicked and shadowy entity that can only attack in the dark. With the help of his older sister, Rebecca (Teresa Palmer), they find out that this demon has an attachment to their mother, Sophie (Maria Bello).
Lights Out is directed by Swedish filmmaker David F. Sandberg and based on his terrifying 2013 short film of the same title (you can find it on YouTube). Often in low budget horror films, lousy acting comes with the territory, but the performances here are all very good, and screenwriter Eric Heisserer gives us characters to care about. Take the character of Rebecca's boyfriend, Bret, for example. Usually, this role is written as an obnoxious character that we can't wait to see meet a horrible end, but here we like this guy and hope he survives, thanks to the writer for creating a character that makes sense and to actor Alexander DiPersia for delivering a warm performance.
And the movie is also clever in its rules regarding the demon. Ultraviolet light can harm her, but she can easily hide in the shadows – like under the bed! The filmmakers were also wise to not completely explain away every detail of the villain, leaving some mystery to how she became the way she is. It is scarier that way.