By Kathryn Whitney Boole

Why is it that people get hooked on horror movies? It could be these films provide opportunity for social bonding. As I watched “Lights Out,” the two guys next to me in the theatre kept gasping, “Oh no”, “Watch out!” “Don’t go in there!” as if they were living the story. And what is it that makes us so afraid of old dark houses? Perhaps these homes are symbols for the labyrinth of emotions stored away deep in our brains that seem to have a life of their own beyond our control.

In a Q&A following the screening, the young Swedish director, David F. Sandberg and his wife Lotte Losten explained that this film grew from a 3-minute mini-film they posted online. It went viral. Producer Lawrence Grey happened to see it one afternoon in his Los Angeles office. In an interview he said, “It scared the living daylights out of me.” In a true “Hollywood Ending” story, Grey mounted a campaign to find the director and meet with him. He got to know Sandberg and offered to make the film and hire him as director even though he had never before directed a feature. Grey brought on horror screenwriter Eric Heisserer to expand the concept into a full-length story with a thought-provoking core idea. Grey’s instincts were dead on (no pun intended), as the finished product displays a refreshingly original take on the genre. Sandberg knew instinctively how to convey volumes in one quick visual … the placement of a sock, a glimpse of a light switch.

The movie is beautifully cast. Teresa Palmer and Maria Bello give amazing performances. A fearless actress, Bello believably portrays a troubled mentally ill mother who has alienated her children and her ex-husbands. Gabriel Bateman is disarming as her young son Martin. Alexander Di Persia provides an edgy creative quality as Palmer’s boyfriend that counters her outward steadiness. The unsung star of the cast is expert stuntwoman Alicia Vela-Bailey, Never showing her face, she is able to nail the effect of a ghastly otherworldly force with her physical movements. Her training as a dancer and gymnast in addition to her work in stunts allow her to communicate anguish and terror using only movements.

Lights Out is not only a very scary, very effective horror film — on a deeper plane it is also an allegory about mental illness and how that condition affects the lives of all who come into contact with it. The story also illustrates that love is its most effective antidote. So see Lights Out even if you’re not a horror film fan. It’s not just a scary movie — it’s a film about human bonds and human nature.

PG-13. 81 minutes.

Kathryn Whitney Boole has spent most of her life in the entertainment industry, which is the backdrop for remarkable adventures with extraordinary people. She is a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. Reach her at kboole@gmail.com. For previously published reviews, see https://kwboole.wordpress.com.