Directed by: David F. Sandberg
Run time: 81 minutes
The Lowdown: It has been awhile since a lean, mean, unfettered thriller arrived with one sole intention – to scare the bejesus out of viewers.
Lights Out does just that.
It’s a stellar example of how a simple story – a mother’s imaginary childhood friend returns to haunt her and threaten her family – can be mined for maximum impact, even if the central shock is pretty basic and doesn’t change too much.
That central shock, though – every time a light switch is turned off, a shadowy figure appears in the distance, and then disappears when the light is turned back on, and then moves closer the next time the light is switched off – does not get old in Lights Out. If anything, it intensifies as the central characters slowly begin to understand exactly what they are dealing with.
Director David F. Sandberg, expanding upon a short film he released several years ago, milks his eerie premise for all it’s worth, utilizing a variety of low-light, black-light and other alternative light sources to amplify the tension and fray viewer nerves.
Lights Out is a film best experienced first-hand without too much knowledge of the major scares to come. Know this, however – if you watch it alone, you will be checking behind you and around you every time you hear an unfamiliar creak or noise you can’t identify.
The Stuff You Care About:
Hot chicks – Yes.
Nudity – No.
Gore – Minimal.
Drug use – No.
Bad Guys/Killers – That childhood friend no one else could see.
Buy/Rent – Buy it.
The Exorcist III: Collector’s Edition (Shout! Factory, 110 minutes, Unrated, Blu-Ray): This 1990 cult classic, a sort-of sequel to 1973’s masterpiece, The Exorcist, benefits from being written and directed by William Peter Blatty, the author of the original source novel for William Friedkin’s iconic shocker.
The Exorcist III is loosely based on Blatty’s own novel sequel, Legion, and is set 15 years after the possession and subsequent exorcism of young Regan MacNeil.
The reason to watch and love this movie belongs solely to George C. Scott, who treats Blatty’s screenplay as if it’s his Oscar-winning role in Patton. Scott bellows, blusters and fumes his way through the movie, destroying each line of dialogue as if it’s an enemy combatant.
The collector's edition includes both the theatrical and the director's cut of the film, which splices in additional footage culled from archives.
The Midnight Swim (Passion River Films, 88 minutes, Unrated, DVD): Director Sarah Adina Smith’s meditation on death and mysticism is imbued with pagan rituals, family divisions and a palatable sense of melancholy. The Midnight Swim is a slow moving exercise filmed mostly cinema verite style but there are taunt sections that create a sense of mounting dread. It’s not for everybody, but there is definitely an audience for this kind of eerie arthouse fare.
Girl in Woods
Ancient Aliens: Season 9
Hideo Nakata’s Dark Water
The Herschell Gordon Lewis Feast
A Better Place
Men and Chicken
Don McLean – Starry Starry Night
Morphine – Journey of Dreams
Papa Hemingway in Cuba
New on Video-on-Demand:
The Windmill (XLrator Media, 85 minutes, Unrated, VOD): The tagline for the new paranormal slasher film, The Windmill, is pretty catchy: “This isn’t Hell. This is Holland.”
If only director Nick Jongerius’ debut feature had been as clever.
The Windmill tries to merge too many genre tropes into one movie. First, there’s the supernatural aspect, wherein a bunch of tourists in Amsterdam all wind up on the same tour bus for a day trip to view windmills. But here’s the catch: Unbeknownst to the group, each person on the bus has some deep, dark secret that’s about to be exploited with creepy hallucinations.
Then there’s the paranormal aspect, in which the ghost of a particularly nasty windmill owner who dabbled in the occult assumes mortal form to terrorize the tourists after their bus mysteriously breaks down within sight of his windmill.
And finally, the slasher aspect whereby the spirit of the devil-worshipping miller stalks everyone in the guise of a hooded maniac with a scythe, slicing and dicing, oh my.
In all honesty, the setup almost mirrors the first Hatchet beat for beat. But whereas Hatchet won kudos for its gore and practical special effects, The Windmill just kind of is what it is. Is it watchable? Sure, in the same way that the seventh or eighth installment of Friday the 13th is watchable. But as far as original scares or serious frights go, horror fans likely won’t find much here to muster a repeat viewing.