Lights Out, scares in

The summer shocker Lights Out marks the feature debut of Swedish filmmaker David F. Sandberg, and is an expanded version of his acclaimed 2013 short film of the same name.

With only a handful of characters and a simple storyline about a spectral demon that strikes only in darkness, Sandberg relies on such old-fashioned, tried-andtrue trappings as creaking floorboards, mysterious footsteps, turning doorknobs and shadowy apparitions to produce scares. Lights Out, which is rated PG-13, is a fairly bloodless endeavor – but no less effective as a result.

Teresa Palmer stars as Rebecca, our resident heroine. Her estranged mother Sophie (Maria Bello) has become emotionally unstable (not for the first time), brought on by the sudden death of her husband (Billy Burke). Rebecca’s little brother Martin (Gabriel Bateman) is no less depressed, and he’s convinced that an otherworldly presence is to blame.

He’s right, of course, and it’s not long before Rebecca comes face to face (or whatever) with “Diana” (Alicia Vela-Bailey), whose relationship with Sophie goes back many years and has continued from beyond the grave.

There are only a handful of characters in the film, but they’re given a bit more depth than might be expected in a horror film. Palmer, Bateman and Alexander DiPersia (as Rebecca’s boyfriend) are likable and worth caring about, and Bello is suitably spooky but also sympathetic as the tormented Sophie. Burke, echoing the cameos by Drew Barrymore in Scream (1996) and Bill Pullman and The Grudge (2004), enters and exits very quickly indeed, although the latter is conveyed in memorable fashion.

There’s the occasional hint or suggestion that the narrative might have originally been longer, but in its present 81-minute running time, Lights Out cooks along in tight fashion. At such a crackling pace, there’s no inclination to ponder the story too closely. In a film such as this, scrutiny is hardly necessary. Better to sit back and savor the scares. !

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