The Big Picture
- Lights Out was a surprise hit, earning close to $150 million on a budget of just $5 million, due to its edge-of-your-seat thrills and jump scares.
- The film revolves around Rebecca and her younger half-brother Martin, who must confront a supernatural spirit attached to their mentally troubled mother.
- Rebecca discovers that the spirit, Diana, is a manifestation of a mentally ill girl her mother met at a psychiatric hospital, and she must find a way to defeat Diana without endangering her mother.
There wasn’t much warning ahead of 2016’s Lights Out that indicated it would be the box office bonanza it became. The film was yet another horror film that revolves around a spirit lurking in the childhood house of the main character, Rebecca (Teresa Palmer), her younger half-brother Martin (Gabriel Bateman), and their uneven, psychologically troubled mother Sophie (Maria Bello). We have seen many entries into this subgenre and some have been done well like The Amityville Horror, The Conjuring, Sinister, and House on Haunted Hill, but there have been too many duds to list here. Something about the movie based on the short film of the same name by director David F. Sandberg struck a chord with audiences and the film went on to be a surprise hit, earning close to $150 million on a budget of just $5 million. And when we revisited the film, we were reminded of why Lights Out made such an impression as the edge-of-your-seat thrills and jump scares come at you in rapid succession. But Sandberg also makes the most out of the prolonged and tense moments spent in the dark and shadowy corners where something wicked is lurking, and it all comes to a head with a shocking conclusion.
Rebecca must unlock the terror behind her little brother’s experiences that once tested her sanity, bringing her face to face with a supernatural spirit attached to their mother.
- Release Date
- July 22, 2016
- David F. Sandberg
- 81 minutes
- Main Genre
What Is ‘Lights Out’ About?
Rebecca has what appears to be a somewhat normal life. She lives in an apartment close to her young brother and mother’s house, and she is in an unremarkable relationship with the good-natured Bret (Alex DiPersia). But something isn’t quite right about the house where she once lived and grew up. It feels like the shadows are alive. Like something is in the old and creaky house waiting in its darkest corners for something, or someone. Sophie and Martin live together in the house, and they are both extremely vulnerable. Sophie has clinical depression and has a history of seeing things that aren’t really there, so when Rebecca finds out that she has been telling him about an entity known as “Diana” that may be inhabiting their house, she feels that Martin is at risk by living with her, and takes him with her to stay at her place. But that night, Rebecca has a strange and ominous encounter at her apartment with a shadowy silhouette when she turns the lights out. This image only appears as an outline of a wretched and decrepit, old female with long, wiry hair and can only be seen when captured in the very limited, ambient moonlight when all the brighter overhead lights and nearby lamps are turned off.
Who Is Diana?
After her experience in her own bedroom, Rebecca starts to entertain the idea that maybe her mother’s tale about an evil spirit inhabiting the darkness is more than just one of her crazy manifestations or a hallucination. So, she begins to do some research to uncover whatever she can about the mysterious “Diana,” and finds out that she and her mother were both patients at Mulberry Hill Psychiatric Hospital at the same time when they were young, preteen girls. She also finds out that Diana was mentally ill in a most nefarious and psychopathic way, and would do anything to make sure that Sophie remained sick so that the two could be together forever. Fast-forward several decades, and it appears that Sophie and Diana are still together. It’s almost as if they are inexorably connected — like one cannot exist without the other. Rebecca tells Martin about the tragic backstory of Diana and that she was not only evil but also had the ability to inhabit the minds of people with fragile or broken psyches after she died. The two form a theory that when their mother is in a particularly bad way with her depression, Diana becomes more prevalent with the intent of protecting Sophie at any cost. Diana is, in fact, a manifestation of the dead girl Sophie met at Mulberry Hill Hospital.
This beloved horror franchise is just one of many to come from humble beginnings.
Rebecca Tries To Defeat Diana (But It Isn’t So Easy)
Once it is established that Diana is very much a real and present entity that will kill anyone who tries to control a severely depressed Sophie who has just lost her husband, Paul (Billy Burke), at the hands of Diana in the film’s opening sequence, it falls on Rebecca and the precocious Martin to make a plan to extract the manifestation of Diana from their home without endangering their mother. Alex is the good boyfriend and offers his assistance, and the trio nervously awaits their next terrifying encounter with Diana. The following night, they all decide to stay in the dark house and foolishly try to get some sleep. (Seriously? As if Diana was ever going to let that happen.) Just as they lay their heads down, the power goes out, creating a virtual hunting season for Diana to stalk her prey. With only a flashlight, Rebecca cautiously makes her way to the basement and the circuit box. No luck. Martin carries a small candle, and they are all sitting ducks at this point. Somehow, Rebecca and Martin meet safely in the basement where they realize that they’ve been duped by Diana as she slams the door at the top of the stairwell trapping them. This leaves Bret alone to deal with the evil spirit where he survives somehow and calls 911.
What Happens at the End of ‘Lights Out’?
When Rebecca is finally able to navigate her way around the basement with a blacklight she discovers, she finds out that it is the perfect weapon against a predator covered in darkness. She sees all manner of wicked and bizarre carvings along the walls that are only illuminated by her blacklight. And so is the case with Diana. As long as they have the blacklight, they have a chance. Eventually, two LAPD officers respond to a 911 call Bret made and make a slow sweep of the dark house. Armed with both the blacklight and a flashlight, Rebecca goes upstairs to check on her mother. She is intercepted by the vengeful Diana who can only exist as long as Sophie renders her into existence through her depressed mind.
Suddenly, Sophie enters the room armed with a handgun. Rebecca and Diana turn to face the armed mother who first tries to shoot Diana, but bullets cannot harm the apparition in the cover of darkness. Sophie’s next move is more out of a momma bear instinct than a conscious choice when she turns the gun on herself. She makes the ultimate sacrifice and shoots herself in the head, which destroys Diana. Sophie had kept telling Diana, “Never hurt my kids!” and she stayed true to her maternal love over her own sanity and life. She brought Diana into their lives, and she ultimately took her out.
Lights Out is available to stream on Netflix in the U.S.