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Short horror film stretched to death
HAS Hollywood officially run out of ideas? After plundering comic books and old TV series and churning out sequels and reboots, it has now turned its attention to YouTube for inspiration.
Lights Out is based on a two-and-a-half minute horror film of the same name that made many people wet their pants after going viral on the video-sharing website three years ago.
It is now stretched out to a full-length feature produced by James Wan (The Conjuring, 2013) and the good news is the clip's director David F Sandberg has been given the opportunity to flesh out his clever zero-dollar original with a modest US$4.9 million budget.
But there is also little reason to catch this unless you haven't seen the YouTube video or missed the Australian psychological supernatural flick The Babadook (2015).
Sure, there are decent jump scares influenced by Japanese horror cinema and Sandberg shows potential for the genre - the Swede will deservedly helm the sequel to The Conjuring's spin-off Annabelle next year - but Lights Out ultimately worked better as a 150-second clip than a 81-minute film.
That boils down to the genius but over-simple visual trick behind the plot: turn off the lights and a ghost appears, turn it back on and it disappears. Repeat until the audience start running out of the cinema faster than the passengers escaping a smoke-filled train at Tanjong Pagar earlier this week.
In the original short film, that on/off gimmick worked a treat but here it's left looking a bit like a one-trick pony.
Maria Bello (Coyote Ugly, 2000) plays Sophie, a high-strung middle-aged mum who finds herself haunted by a ghostly silhouette that she claims is Diana, an old friend that died after being experimented on at a mental hospital.
Sophie's rebellious step-daughter Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) refuses to believe her and thinks her mother deserves to be sent back to the nuthouse until she sees Diana for herself.
By then, it's too late as the vengeful ghoul is hell-bent on unleashing her fury on the whole family, including Sophie's young son Martin (Gabriel Bateman).
Written by Eric Heisserer (A Nightmare on Elm Street, 2010), Lights Out gets predictable very quickly though cinematographer Marc Spicer has an eye for shadows and knows how to work them for maximum scares.
But there is no hiding the fact the film is a cash-in and has been stretched to death to become a feature. Watch it only if you have time to kill.