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Lights Out (Blu-ray Review)

Lights-OutLights Out is the directorial debut of Davd S. Sandberg, based off his short film.  Produced by James Wan, its almost as if he’s giving back as his first film was based off of a short he made (Saw).  Turning a horror short into a feature length film can be a tricky business.  These ideas are killer in their short form and sometimes there’s nothing more to tell than what was in that quick time frame.  James Wan managed to do it well with the first Saw film.  One that didn’t work was When A Stranger Calls; a film with an epic and legendary opening fails to prove it has reason to exist beyond that.  Fortunately for Sandberg, he found a way to make this work, and he thrilled audiences all the way to the bank with one of the summer’s most profitable films.  And it looks like we’ll be keeps the switch off again in the near future with a sequel, too.

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Film 

When Rebecca left home, she thought she left her childhood fears behind. Growing up, she was never really sure of what was and wasn’t real when the lights went out…and now her little brother, Martin, is experiencing the same unexplained and terrifying events that had once tested her sanity and threatened her safety. A frightening entity with a mysterious attachment to their mother, Sophie, has reemerged. But this time, as Rebecca gets closer to unlocking the truth, there is no denying that all their lives are in danger…once the lights go out.

This is how its done!  A nice, really low budget that keeps a production tight and on its toes.  It really allows us to find our innovative and most creative filmmakers.  David S. Sandberg looks like he could be one of those people.  Lights Out only cost 4.9 million dollars to make and saw plenty a big return with strong box office legs.  That means people really liked it.  And its not hard to see that, as the film doesn’t mess around, being a tight production delivering the goods.

David S. Sandberg makes the correct choice her to go with as simple a film as possible to lay on top of his short.  The mythology is pretty simple and open while the monster is left to the shadows and a lot on your own imagination.  Its a film that hinges on just striving to do the meat and potatoes of horror as well as it can.  Lights Out really is a ‘jump scare’ film, as that’s what it creatively recycles throughout in interesting and surprising ways.  Sandberg knows it has a simple process and never tries to overcomplicate it or try to explain some rules or whatnot.  A monster attacks and moves around when you turn off the lights.  That’s it.  Its refreshing that he just accepts that and then decides to try and make as many different scenarios as he can.

Lights Out manages to show of some really good filmmaking craft in this short 80 minute thrill ride. Lighting schemes are tremendously fun and are pretty gorgeous to look at.  Sandberg shows a real strength in conveying his monster effectively and consistently.  This thing got at least a tiny jolt from me in just about every sequence it was intending to do so.  There’s something to be said for that.  Sandberg also doesn’t go overboard on characters and gives us a group that we can really get on board with and hold out hope for survival throughout.

I really enjoyed Lights Out.  I wanted to see it in the theater, but I just didn’t make it (That short worked as a very effective trailer).  There’s a feel of a throwback to a simpler, more primal kind of horror in it adhering to mainly core values and not trying to overdo or make it feel like its the most important scary movie ever told.  Some may turn their nose up because its PG-13, but it really doesn’t need an R-rating and never feels like anything was compromised to grab that rating.  To me, it looks like they just went out, shot their film, and that’s the rating they were fated with. A solid cast and promising filmmaking have this one as something you should definitely be watching right now during the month of Halloween.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: Lights Out comes to Blu-ray with a pretty awesome transfer.  Most of this film is in the dark and carries some interesting lighting scheme to change things up.  You get some black light, red neon, candle light and flashlight through the film and its done quite lovely in this 1080p image.  Its a sharp and wonderfully detailed picture, picking up some little slight patterns and textures in clothing and stuff like wood grains to make this a very clean experience.

Depth:  It may be dark a lot, but the interiors of Maria Bello’s home in the film look pretty good.  Here tracking exterior establishing shots look pretty 3-dimensional as well.  Characters move smoothly and naturally through these environments, feeling detached and free of them.  Background imagery is pretty discernible even when the focus isn’t as friendly.

Black Levels:  Blacks are probably the most important player in the entire image.  Its called Lights Out for good reason; a lot of this film is dark.  This transfer does some great work with the shadows and provided a deep, clean empty looking nothing for a home without power to haunt your screen.  The film’s monster, “Diane”, is well represented here, giving a spooky look that shows and promises some texture, but moreso gives you a frame and light detail to still keep the mystery still alive.  No crushing witnessed during this viewing.

Color Reproduction: Colors are quite wonderful in this transfer.  Most notably are some of the filtered lighting schemes.  A blacklight sequence in the film’s final act brings a luscious, rich, gorgeous blue to the screen that looks naturally vivid.  Some bits at Teresa Palmer’s apartment feature the glare of a Tattoo parlor sign from out side the window that bring a strong push of red to the screen.  In the mother’s home, we get a lot of wood featured with many tints and flourishes of browns that are pretty thorough and well done.  Other colors come on bold and fit their natural appearance.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are natural and maintain a consistent look on them throughout the duration of the feature.  Make-up, lip texture, stubble, wrinkles, neck lines, crow’s feet and some blemishes can be seen on the characters’ faces from pretty much any distance the camera is set at.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 5.1 Descriptive Audio, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese

Dynamics: Lights Out brings an insanely fun 5.1 mix to the table to help tell and enhance this movie on its Blu-ray debut.  Sounds are crisp and full. It also features a ton of big jump scare moments, and is plenty loud when this thing really gets going.  Diane is also all over the place in the film and its accurately represented her in the 5 channel mix.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  Your sub woofer is put to work with all the jump scaring going on in the film.  Big scoring hits, low pounding noises and some struggles winding up with people thrown at walls or hitting a floor pretty hard will rumble.  Sometimes even just an intense light turning off part will pump it.

Surround Sound Presentation:  Impressively, this mix has a ton of fun with the rear channel speakers  Diane is all over them, scratching, growling and much more.  They really let these speakers have at it with unique noises frequently.  Complimenting is a nicely intricate front channel mix that keeps things accurate and bouncing around side to side and of course throwing it to the back.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is well represented here, featuring an accuracy an full display of verbal diction on screen in a crisp sound.  No matter how big a jump or intense scoring moment there is, you can still hear the characters plenty good.

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Extras 

Lights Out comes with an UltraViolet digital copy of the film.

Deleted Scenes (HD, 13:58) 

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Summary 

Lights Out is a very quick, jumpy and simple horror ride that titillates by keeping itself on some of the core exploitative storytelling values and focusing on strong filmmaking.   This Blu-ray gives it quite a terrific presentation.  Video comes out looking top notch and the 5.1 audio mix is quite the fun treat to experience.  The bummer here is the bonus features, which just amounts to three deleted scenes.  Not to defend the lack of any sort of featurettes, but not having them kind of keeps the magic intact for the film.  Lights Out is one of the best horror films of the year, and one you should pop into your collection at the right price.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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