Friday, July 22, 2016
Lights Out 
CNS/USCCB (J. McAleer) review
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review
RogerEbert.com (P. Sobczynski) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review
Lights Out  (directed by David F. Sandberg, screenplay by Eric Heisserer) is based on the director's 3 minute "short" (by the same name) that caught a lot of people's attention a few years back.
The story's built around a monster that would only appear when the lights went out. As soon as one turned the lights back on again, it would disappear (somehow). But when you turned off the lights once more it would appear again... closer ;-). It made for one heck of an interesting concept and so Eric Heisserer was then hired to "flesh the concept out" into a feature length screenplay.
Does he / do the film-makers "succeed"? Partly ... almost ... until the end. Then I agree with the Jack McAleer of the Catholic News Service that the film, at minimum enters into (needlessly shocking / violent) R-rated territory and becomes unjustifiable morally to all.
The story developed for the film around this rather strange if intriguing monster centers on a family with a troubled mother named Sophie (played by Maria Bello). As a child she had been institutionalized for (manic) depression but later "as long as she stayed on her meds," she had proven functional enough to lead a quite normal life, even getting married, twice, and having two children -- Rebecca (played by Teresa Palmer) in her late teens by her first husband, and 8-10 y.o. Martin (played by Gabriel Bateman) by her second. The problems, of course, arose when she went off said meds.
Sophie's first husband (Rebecca's dad) had apparently "just upped and left" one day after a(n extended?) period in which she was apparently off her meds. And the current film began with Martin skyping his dad Paul (played by Billy Burke) at work, telling him that he was worried about ma' because she was acting strangely again (was off her vitamins ...), closing-up all the curtains in the house and talking again to her "invisible friend" Diana ...
Well, that couldn't be good ... and it wasn't...
Who exactly was this invisible friend? Was she real? Was she simply in Sophie, the mother's, head? Somehow both? Much, often quite scary (still in PG-13 territory) ensues, even if there are aspects of the life of the late-teen daughter Rebecca (already moved out of home, for reasons, well, guess ...) that are already morally problematic (even if she does apparently still keep her boyfriend Bret (played by Alexander DePersia) at "a distance."
It's just the ending that becomes A REAL PROBLEM. Late teens and above who'd want to see the movie may want to STOP READING HERE but PARENTS, PLEASE, DO NOT ...
BIG SPOILER ALERT
Near the end of the movie, as Sophie comes to realize / believe that she's somehow responsible for the chaos that's occurring in the family (as a result of this strange monster that only exists and attacks people, Sophie's family members, in the dark) DECIDES TO TAKE A GUN AND BLOW HER BRAINS OUT.
Like the CNS's reviewer Jack McAleer, I SIMPLY DON'T BELIEVE THAT SUCH A GRAPHIC DEPICTION OF A SUICIDE belongs in PG-13 movie territory !!
And even adults should be shaken by the suggestion of this movie. Yes, troubled people can be problematic, but the solution is certainly _not_ suicide (or even worse ... doctor / state ordered murder / euthanasia).
As such, this film at minimum should have been rated "R" to allow parents greater control over whether they wanted their kids to have access to the film. But truthfully, it should have been written better to avoid thrusting onto the audience this unexpected moral problem.
As troubled as ma', Sophie, may have been ... she _did not_ deserve to die.
"Lights Out" indeed ...
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