The spooky season is just around the corner, and Netflix has plenty of goodies to get the goosebumps going. One such treat is the 2016 horror phenomenon Lights Out. This terrifying ghost flick features a haunting creature that only appears when the lights are down; if you were not afraid of the dark before, you will be after this one.
Lights Out, the feature film version of director David F. Sandberg’s award-winning short film, is streaming on Netflix.
Lights Out follows Martin, a young boy, and Rebecca, his adult half-sibling. Rebecca comes to Martin’s aid when their mother, Sophie, begins what appears to be a mental health decline, talking to someone in the dark named Diana.
Rebecca assures her brother that Diana is not real, but Martin insists that he has seen the figure of a woman lurking in the darkness. Diana turns out to be very real, indeed. Her haunting unearths the scars of Sophie’s past and sends the family scrambling for the light as the darkness around them becomes deadly.
Lights Out is the feature film debut of David F. Sandberg, the director behind DC’s Shazam! films. Sandberg garnered attention from the film business back in 2013 when his short film version of Lights Out went viral online. Starring his wife, Lotta Losten, and crafted entirely by Sandberg with basically no budget, the short’s success was a testament to its purity.
Messages from Hollywood agents and producers came pouring in, and Sandberg and his wife made the long haul from their home in Sweden to begin a new life in Los Angeles. A feature film version of Lights Out began development with James Wan’s Atomic Monster, with Sandberg directing a from a screenplay by veteran horror writer Eric Heisserer.
Teresa Palmer, Gabriel Bateman, Maria Bello, and Billy Burke star as the family at the center of the film. Stuntwoman extraordinaire Alicia Vela-Bailey gets her moment out of the spotlight as the film’s haunting antagonist, Diana.
With a budget of only $5 million, Lights Out was a smash hit, bringing in $148 million at the box office.
Filming Lights Out was Sandberg’s first experience with a crew – on day one, he did not even know when to call action. Apparently, he got the hang of it. Critics largely praised the direction of Lights Out, which takes its horrifying premise to new heights.
Thanks to a screenplay that prioritizes character and emotional stakes, the horror hook has something substantial to hang its hat on. The gimmicks and tropes are well executed enough to not feel so gimmicky, making Lights Out a genuine, skin-crawling experience.
Going up against heavy hitters like Star Trek Beyond and The Secret Lift of Pets at the summer movie season, Lights Out managed to light up the box office. Against a roughly $5 million budget, the film grossed over $148 million worldwide. Not bad for a first-time director.
If you think superhero movies are the kings of sequels, think again. Horror movies are notorious for draining every foot of film possible out of good premises (how many Halloween movies are there?), and Lights Out 2 was announced almost immediately after the first one was released.
Since then, the follow-up has gone mysteriously dark. No progress on the project has been made or at least shared. Somewhere in the desk drawer of a Hollywood producer lies a plan for Lights Out 2, just waiting to see the light of day.
Even without a Lights Out franchise to pay the electric bill, David Sandberg has made a name for himself in Hollywood. He continued his relationship with Atomic Monster when he helmed 2017’s Annabelle: Creation. Then he was snatched up by the DC machine to make a pair of Shazam! films.
After the success of Lights Out, David F. Sandberg briefly left horror behind when he directed both Shazam films for DC.
Shazam! was met with surprisingly positive reviews in 2019, but its 2023 sequel was a critical and box office bomb. Sandberg and Shazam actor Zachary Levi stand by their films, but they fight an uphill battle as superheroes not named Spider-Man struggle to generate the enthusiasm they once did.
While he waits for Lights Out 2 to come out of the dark, Sandberg will helm the sci-fi/horror film Below. From the writers of In the Shadow of the Moon Geoffrey Tock and Gregory Weidman, Below tells the story of an ex-con working an odd job – locating supernatural beings living among humanity.
Lights Out is a supernatural horror movie that belongs in a rare class of genuinely scary modern movies. Built on a pitch-perfect premise and a solid use of genre conventions, Lights Out belongs at the top of any horror lover’s Netflix queue. Just remember to check your home’s light bulbs before watching.