Archive for the ‘Lights Out (2016)’ Category

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Distributor: Warner Bros.

Release Date: October 25, 2016

Region: Region A

Length: 81 min

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio

Alternate Audio:

English Descriptive Audio

Spanish (Latin) Dolby Digital

French (Canadian) Dolby Digital

Portuguese Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish (Latin), French (Canadian), & Portuguese

Ratio: 2.40:1

Bitrate: 32.81 Mbps

Notes: This release includes a DVD and Ultraviolet copy of the film and Warner Brothers is also releasing a DVD-only edition of the film.

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“People have been afraid of the dark probably since the dawn of time… It’s something even I feel in my bones.  So, rather than deny that impulse, we’re saying, ‘You were right.  You were right to be afraid because there is something there.’  We took that fear and created a monster out of it.”  -David F. Sandberg (Press Book)

David F. Sandberg’s quote cuts through to the heart of his debut feature’s core concept. Children and adults are both liable to imagine all sorts of things once they turn out the lights. People like knowing what lies before them and seek control of their surroundings. It is natural to fear darkness. What child doesn’t imagine malignant forces lurking in the nether regions of their closets or the shadows that lurk beneath their beds? Our imaginations create all sorts of monstrosities… But what if those monstrosities weren’t imagined? What if there is a malignant force that feeds on darkness and finds nourishment in our fear of it?

Lights Out was built on this concept, and it proves to be a relatively solid foundation on which to build a simple horror story. 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.

David F. Sandberg’s debut feature was created from a screenplay by Eric Heisserer that was based on Sandberg’s own short film.  Marketing materials for the film make an obvious effort to credit James Wan as the creative force behind the film, but it is clear that he is merely the marketing muscle. He served as producer on the project along with Lawrence Grey and Eric Heisserer. This approach must have been reasonably efficient because the film proved to be an overwhelming success at the box office.

Of course, this probably has as much to do with the positive word of mouth that the picture generated amongst young horror audiences. Having said this, it sometimes feels that this period in cinema history is an extremely low ebb for the horror genre. There have been a few brilliant horror entries in recent years, but most have simply been engaging but immediately forgettable. This entry seems to fall somewhere between these two extremes. The film is quite effective and has a hauntingly effective ending that should disturb reasonably intelligent viewers, but it isn’t quite as good as it could have been.

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The Presentation:

3 of 5 Stars

The disc is protected in a standard Blu-ray case with film-related artwork that originated on the film’s American one sheet (this artwork has been altered slightly). The presentation earns points for using the one-sheet artwork for this release because home movie marketing art is nearly always inferior. One can only hope that this becomes a trend.

 The menu utilizes the same image found on the cover but also crudely incorporates a still of the “Diana” entity. This was a mistake because the cover image would have served their purposes and the result would have been vastly superior. It is impossible to understand why anyone would have made such a decision. A loop from Benjamin Wallfisch’s score plays over this tacky image.

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Picture Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Warner Brothers has mastered their video transfer at the relatively high bitrate average of 32.81 Mbps, and this loving care results in a superior image that showcases the sharp detail captured in the film’s digital source materials. Marc Spicer’s lighting is typical of many horror films and features an abundance of shadows amongst pools of light. It is nice to report that these solid blacks seem to accurately reflect the original concept without running into any of the distracting anomalies (such as the crushing of image detail) that this sort of design sometimes creates on home video. The frame showcases quite a bit of depth and the transfer is up to this task as it renders each frame with remarkable clarity. There may be small traces of video noise that seem to be inherent in the source, but this never becomes problematic or distracting.

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Sound Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Luckily, the 5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio is an equally impressive if incredibly subtle sound mix that leans towards a more quietly menacing aesthetic for the most part. The sound design is extremely effective in its creepiness and creates an almost imperceptible paranoia in the viewer (or listener). The mix makes noble use of the various surround channels. It seems to wrap around the viewer as it sets the up for a few jump scares that are more effective due to the contrasting silence. Dialogue is consistently clear and mixed naturally and Benjamin Wallfisch’s score is given room to breathe some extra life into the overall soundscape.

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Special Features:

3 of 5 Stars

Three “Deleted” Scenes – (1080P)(13:58)

It is always nice to see what is left on the cutting room floor and this selection of deleted footage is obviously a welcome addition to the disc. As a matter of fact, it is a rather substantial supplement that provides a glimpse into a potentially very different film experience.

The first scene finds Rebecca as she is investigating her stepfather’s death. She calls the detective handling the case and he drills her about her mother and her mental health. He implies that her mother might have had something to do not only with her stepfather’s death (which we know isn’t at all true) but also her own father’s disappearance. It is a nice scene but ultimately unnecessary as it never actually leads to anything that happens later in the film.

The second scene isn’t so much a deleted scene as it is an alternate version of a scene that still exists in the final film. Rebecca and Martin discuss who Diana is and her connection to their mother. As presented here, the scene seems to be an extension of an earlier scene that is still in the finished film, but the filmmakers seem to have reshot the scene to occur a short time later and in another room. The alteration was an improvement.

The most interesting and certainly the most substantial deleted scene is the film’s original ending. The film’s ending raised quite a few eyebrows upon its release and for very good reason. David F. Sandberg has discussed the two endings at length in various interviews:

“Originally, we actually shot—not a different ending, but sort of an additional ending. After the whole thing went down at the house, the movie actually went on for almost 10 more minutes where we find out that this didn’t get rid of Diana, you know, and now depression has consumed Martin instead because his mom’s suicide affected him that much. She came back one more time and they dealt with her once and for all. But the interesting thing was that when we showed that to test audiences, they just hated it. They fill out these forms and there were people who wrote just across the entire form, ‘Get rid of the second ending.’ They found that having Diana return made Sophie’s sacrifice in vain. It was really interesting because you hear about test audiences and you think, ‘Oh, it’s going to be all dumb ideas.’ But it was surprising to find that it was actually something thoughtful…

…Because they felt that Sophie was sort of sacrificing herself for her children and to save their lives, and if Diana just came back right after, then, you know, she’d done that for nothing. So what we did was, we tried just cutting off the movie where it now ends and showing it to test audiences again and people loved the movie. The scores went up like 30 percent or something—just from cutting off the last few minutes. But now it was this feeling of, ‘Oh, shit.’ Even though people loved it, it could kind of be interpreted as… that suicide helped them, that it was the solution.” -David F. Sandberg (Interview with A.A. Dowd, A.V. Club, July 30, 2016)

It is difficult to fault the filmmakers for cutting off the film’s second ending because it simply doesn’t work. The original ending feels like the film ends twice. The first ending is what one might call a false happy ending. On the surface, it seems like a traditional “Hollywood” happy ending: evil is defeated and the three principal characters can move on with their lives. However, this isn’t quite true. Rebecca and Martin will always have to live with the pain resulting from their mother’s suicide. What could be more horrific than that? Having said this, it is important to remember that this is a horror film. The disturbing ending is in some ways very true to life. Many people who suffer from depression actually believe that they are doing what is best for their families. This is precisely why calling those who commit suicide selfish is absolutely ridiculous and completely untrue. They simply aren’t of sound mind. It is actually a very powerful ending… but could people misread it? Absolutely. We can only hope that the film’s inevitable sequel will focus on the pain and aftermath caused by the mother’s suicide.

The alternate ending only serves to muddy the waters. The filmmaker’s intentions aren’t at all clear, and everything about the ending feels forced and unnecessary. Actually, it is almost always a mistake to give a film two endings—the single exception might be the double ending included in the original Alien. Knowing where to end a film is important, and knowing not to end a film twice is simply common sense.

Of course, all of this controversy only makes the inclusion of these deleted scenes more substantial. Most would probably say that I scored the supplemental package rather high, but one prefers quality over quantity. Frankly, it has become unreasonable to expect much more than a collection of deleted scenes from a standard studio Blu-ray release in recent years. Actually, deleted scenes are becoming a rare part of the Blu-ray experience. Certainly, the most anyone can expect beyond this is shallow EPK fluff and theatrical trailers. While it wouldn’t have hurt Warner Brothers to include the film’s two theatrical trailers here, one certainly doesn’t miss having to sit through lifeless EPK fluff. The age of comprehensive “making of” documentaries has now passed.

Having said this, there is a glaringly obvious supplemental omission here. Since Lights Out is based on an original short by David F. Sandberg, the fact that the short isn’t included on this disc seems almost lazy. The aforementioned mini-movie is less than three minutes in length, but it would have made for instructive viewing had Warner Brothers seen fit to include it. File this oversight under “missed opportunity.” Had the disc included the short, we would have probably given this package an extra star.

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Final Words:

Those looking for a contemporary horror selection to help them celebrate Halloween could certainly do worse than Lights Out. This Warner Brothers Blu-ray release offers a solid transfer of the film and is the best way to view the film in one’s home environment.

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Review by: Devon Powell