Lights Out is a decent ghost story. With a PG-13 rating, it goes for jump scares above all else. The age-old ‘afraid of the dark’ motif gets put to use here.
Rebecca’s little brother, Martin, is having trouble sleeping. Rebecca left home long years ago as she doesn’t get along with her mother after her father walked out on them. Martin calls Rebecca from school and she comes to pick him up, a child service worker says he keeps falling asleep in class. His behavior mimics problems Rebecca had in her childhood and she’s immediately suspicious of mom. It turns out their mother has a rather disturbing friend following her around, one that gets very angry when she doesn’t get her way.
At 80 minutes long, Lights Out zips along. We meet the ghost in the first scene and get a sense of her powers. From there we meet Rebecca and Martin and their mother’s problems become known. Due to the short run time, Rebecca puts things together fast. She finds background info in the first place she looks, she finds a way to harm the ghost more or less by accident and then it’s a matter of protecting her brother.
It’s all a little convenient but it works well enough. The special effects are really good and using darkness as a scare tactic is always effective. The threat of the ghost comes with a flicker. Lights on she can’t do anything, but in the dark, she’s free to move about quickly (she might have had ninja training when she was alive) and do harm. Neat monster design (even if it is too close to the witch in the Left 4 Dead games) that has a great silhouette. The old technique of hiding the monster until the final act is done to great effect.
Good cast and a solid ending, even if it is predictable. Good character building, the script hits all the checkpoints at the typical page count. A good scary movie for those new to the genre as there is not much here for the vets.