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Non-Review Review: Lights Out

For the bulk of its runtime, Lights Out is a very old-fashioned and very clever horror movie.

The basic premise of Lights Out is quite clever, even on its own terms. The central antagonist of the film is a demonic entity that seems to move through darkness. Characters are safe from its influence so long as they remain in the light. It is a very smart riff on a primal fear. The fear of darkness is the most primal of fears, the anxiety about the unknown and what might lurk in the shadows. Lights Out takes that universal fear and mines it for scares, in a fashion that is very classic while also quite clever.

A bit of the old ultraviolet...

A bit of the old ultraviolet…

The premise alone is enough to drive Lights Out, to power an eighty-one-minute horror film. However, director David Sandberg and writer Eric Heisserer go a great deal further. In the style of many classic horror stories, Lights Out positions its demon as an allegorical device. This demon that stalks its prey through darkness is treated as an apt metaphor for depression, a creature that has latched on to a small suburban family and tormented them quietly for years. It is a premise that The Babadook used to great effect, and it adds a little extra heft to Lights Out.

However, there is a sense that Lights Out is just a little bit too clever for its own good. The film follows its basic premise to a very clever and innovative conclusion within the world that it has created. The problem is that the movie’s final big plot development rather brutally undercuts the central allegory in such a way that the film trips over its own wit. Still, discounting those final few minutes, Lights Out is a visceral thrill-ride and a joy from start to almost-finish.

Red sky at night...

Red sky at night…

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Daredevil by Brian Michael Bendis Omnibus, Vol. I

It took me a while to write this. Because it took me a while to figure out what to say. I honestly believe that the combined Bendis/Brubaker run on Daredevil has been perhaps the single most impressive run on mainstream comics in the past decade. It isn’t post-modern or retrospective, it isn’t flashy or innovative. It’s just a collection of good and clever stories, well told. Some of them reflect the state of the superhero in popular culture, some of them explore the role and function of the media as a supreme court of arbitration, but most of them are just good and clever noir stories. If you are looking to pick up a single collection of comic books, I would recommend this. It’s nominally a superhero story, but at its heart it’s a gritty urban thriller. But that’s enough hyperbole, don’t you think?

Better the devil you know?

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