How 'Lights Out' taps into our childhood nightmares and mental health themes | The Haunted Column

Lights Out
Still from Lights Out. Photo: IMDb

What scared us the most in our childhood? While ghosts might come to mind, it's often the fear of something lurking in the dark corners that truly terrified us as kids. This is the premise that the 2016 movie 'Lights Out', directed by David F. Sandberg and starring Teresa Palmer, explores.

In the film, Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) believed she had left her childhood fears behind when she moved out. As a child, she was never certain what was real when the lights went out at night. Now, her younger brother Martin (Gabriel Bateman) is experiencing the same unexplained and terrifying occurrences that once jeopardized her safety and sanity. With a mysterious connection to their mother (Maria Bello), a supernatural entity returns to torment the entire family.

In horror movies, the scares often have deeper meanings or are linked to mental illnesses. In this film, the haunting entity symbolizes depression, often represented by the colour black, signifying emptiness and the draining of happiness. Similar to movies like 'The Babadook' or 'Smile', this film cleverly integrates the theme of mental illness, illustrating how it can overshadow and dim the light in people's lives.

In the movie, Maria Bello's character clearly struggles with depression, possibly battling it since her childhood, which has impacted most of her relationships. Throughout the film, she appears emotionally distant from her children, potentially contributing to Rebecca's decision to run away later on. However, she also seems protective of her children, maintaining some distance, possibly out of fear that her illness might affect them too. Several scenes show that her children also come into contact with the haunting entity, implying they may be experiencing similar emotions and could be at risk of developing depression themselves.

The movie is tightly focused, involving only a few characters and two main locations. This concentrated setting allows the audience to become deeply immersed in the story. The concept of an evil entity lurking in the shadows, ready to strike when the lights go off, is genuinely terrifying. In the film, the entity even has the ability to manipulate the lights, keeping viewers on edge, anticipating its sudden appearance at any moment.

As children, many of us feared entering our rooms after turning off the lights, influenced by horror movies suggesting something would follow us. In this film, that fear becomes a reality, keeping the audience on the edge of their seats and rooting for the main characters to escape.

The movie employs clever jumpscares and other frightening elements. While it becomes somewhat predictable as to when the entity will appear, ‘Lights Out’ is still a solid choice for those seeking a decent horror film to watch and enjoy.

The comments posted here/below/in the given space are not on behalf of Onmanorama. The person posting the comment will be in sole ownership of its responsibility. According to the central government's IT rules, obscene or offensive statement made against a person, religion, community or nation is a punishable offense, and legal action would be taken against people who indulge in such activities.