(On Cable TV, April 2017) While Lights Out isn’t a great horror movie and isn’t likely to become much of a reference, it is competently executed and reasonably good for an avowed genre effort. The mythology may not make much sense and the film often struggles to get out of rote narrative elements, but the direction (by first-timer David Sandberg) is effective and the film doesn’t overstay its welcome at barely 81 minutes. The best sequence, should anyone ask, has to do with the boyfriend character (a type usually doomed to third-act death) thinking fast and using his car key fob to good effect. The ending also has an impact, featuring the always-good Maria Bello. This isn’t the first time that “monster only seen in darkness” has been used, but the less said about Darkness Falls the better. Lights Out has a better chance to be remembered as a worthwhile if unspectacular horror film—especially if Sandberg goes on to bigger and better things. It should be noted that Lights Out, with its emphasis on sight, has a clear kinship with other sense-centric horror movies of the moment such as Hush and Don’t Breathe: an intriguing mini-trend in barely nine months.
(Youtube Streaming, May 2015) I’m… not sure what to think of this 31-minutes paean to Internet manias. Famously crowd-funded following a delirious mock-trailer that included Hitler (as the Kung-Führer), hackers, martial arts, VHS artifacts, dinosaurs and a cool eighties vibe, the full(er) version of Kung Fury is almost exactly much of the same. Blending whatever is deemed to be ironically cool into a mush of satire, special effects, one-lines, attitude and high camp, it’s made for online viewing and instant memetic distribution. On one hand, Kung Fury is good for a few laughs, bathroom entertainment and social media sharing. On the other, it’s not really that much more than the three-minute trailer (there’s a noticeable lull in the third quarter) and the mirror it reflects on what the Internet think is cool isn’t particularly flattering. Still, there’s a lot to admire in writer/director David Sandberg’s DIY moxie (it’s a special-effects-heavy film, and handled much of its production himself) and his incredible ability is tapping into the collective zeitgeist to the tune of 630,000$. Since the result is free to view, why not just enjoy it as a mindless pastime, and wish the best for Sandberg’s next effort?