Lights Out

            As horror films go, it’s more on the creepy, doors-creaking, spooky-sounds side, rather than the gory slashing or gratuitous nudity.  It even has a cohesive narrative.  But there is some violence, and a rather sobering ending.

            The central character is really the kid, Martin (Gabriel Bateman).  He’s a cute little boy who suffers from sleeplessness, because he keeps thinking there’s a ghost in his house.  The weird part is that he’s right.

            It seems that his Mom, Sophie (Maria Bello) is off her meds, and talking to herself in her room a lot.  When she gets that way, she conjures up the ghost, Diana (veteran stunt actor Alicia Vela-Bailey, in a decidedly unglamorous role).  Sophie and Diana, it turns out, had been together as teenagers in a mental institute, until a shock treatment gone awry did away with Diana.  Sophie, meanwhile, recovers enough to get married and have a daughter, Rebecca.  But when her husband mysteriously disappears, she goes into a tailspin again, until meeting her 2nd husband, by whom she had Martin.  But at the first of the movie, Diana manages to do away with the 2nd husband, also, because she wants Sophie all to herself.  And though Sophie has made Diana promise that she won’t harm the children, she begins to haunt both Rebecca and Martin, trying to drive a wedge between them and Sophie.

            Rebecca is now a young adult, and lives by herself in an apartment downtown, where she’s been enjoying frequent liaisons with her boyfriend of eight months, Bret (Alexander DiPersia).  He can’t understand why she won’t let him spend the night, or even leave a pair of jeans in a dresser drawer.  But Rebecca is running scared, because Diana has visited her, at night, also.  When the lights are out, Diana appears, and when the lights come on, she disappears. And her presence is not at all benign.

            Martin winds up falling asleep in school a lot, and when the administrators can’t get hold of his Mom, they finally find Rebecca, who wants to protect her little brother (OK, half-brother), but CPS says he can’t officially live with her unless she’s ready to sue her Mom for custody, and demonstrate her own capability to raise him.  (She doesn’t appear to have a job, but then, neither does Sophie. Perhaps either would be a plot distraction?)

            Bret, always on the outside looking in, winds up being important in the end, and by then he believes in ghosts, as well.  This particular ghost is not friendly and has a violent agenda, and is brutally strong.  Yes, the jump-out-at-you cinematography will get your attention.  We’re just hoping all these apparently dysfunctional characters will eventually find a path to “normal,” while we all revel in the paranormal for a while.

Questions for Discussion:

1)                   Do you believe in ghosts?

2)                  Do you believe in the Holy Ghost?

3)                  Do you enjoy scary movies?  Why or why not?

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association