A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Lights Out is a horror movie about a ghost/monster that only appears in darkness. It's a surprisingly simple, effective idea that works well. Expect strong horror violence; in addition to scary stuff and shocking jump-scare moments, there's murder and death, bloody wounds, suicide, guns fired, brutally attacks, arguments, and unsettling themes. A young couple has a suggested sexual relationship, with some spoken references, but only kissing is shown. Language is infrequent but includes a use of "f--k" and some uses of "s--t." A bong is shown in one shot, suggesting that a character smokes pot.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
A man (Billy Burke), concerned about the well-being of his sick wife, Sophie (Maria Bello), and scared son, Martin (Gabriel Bateman), is attacked and killed by a terrifying creature that only seems to exist in the dark with the LIGHTS OUT. At home, young Martin is also terrorized by the creature and calls his rebellious older half-sister, Rebecca (Teresa Palmer), for help. Accompanied by her kind, patient boyfriend Bret (Alexander DiPersia), Rebecca learns that the creature was once a woman called Diana, who had a brutal childhood and a chronic sensitivity to light. She also learns that Diana was once Sophie's friend and that Sophie may have something to do with Diana's reign of terror. Can Sophie's kids stay in the light long enough to defeat the monster?
Is it any good?
This simple but effective horror movie seems to do everything exactly right. It's smart, clever, and very scary, and it doesn't bother with any of the lazy, cynical stuff associated with the horror genre today. Written and directed by David F. Sandberg -- making his feature debut after some spooky short films -- and co-written by veteran horror screenwriter Eric Heisserer, Lights Out starts by creating a great new movie monster. They establish clear rules for their Diana and then run with every conceivable variation on their idea; the movie is full of unexpected surprises.
Helped by strong performances, especially from standouts Palmer and Bello, the characters are sharply drawn and sympathetic. They also behave logically -- and even when they do go into the dark, scary basement, it's only to look for the fuse box. The movie even avoids the usual, annoying, fake "look out for the sequel" ending. It's the rare horror movie that shows its audience respect and delivers a quality tricky treat.
Talk to your kids about ...
Is the movie scary? What's scary about it? Why is it sometimes fun to be scared?
Is Rebecca a role model? What are her flaws? What are her strengths? Does she come through for those who need her?
What does it mean to be a monster? Why do you think Diana does the things she does? Do you feel sorry for her?
What's the friendship like between Diana and Sophie? Have you ever had an unusual friendship?
- In theaters: July 22, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: October 25, 2016
- Cast: Teresa Palmer, Maria Bello, Billy Burke
- Director: David F. Sandberg
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Horror
- Topics: Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Run time: 81 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: terror throughout, violence including disturbing images, some thematic material and brief drug content
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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