Lights Out is a 2016 American supernatural horror film, directed by David F. Sandberg in his major directorial debut, produced by Lawrence Grey, James Wan, and Eric Heisserer, and written by Heisserer. It stars Teresa Palmer, Gabriel Bateman, Billy Burke and Maria Bello. It is based on Sandberg's 2013 short film of the same name and features Lotta Losten, who starred in the short.
The film had its world premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival on June 8, 2016, and was released in the United States and Canada on July 22, 2016 by Warner Bros. The film has grossed over $143 million and received generally positive critical reviews.
In a mannequin warehouse, co-worker Esther (Lotta Losten) sees a silhouette of a woman with monstrously long fingers when she turns the lights off, but sees nothing when the lights are on. She warns owner Paul (Billy Burke) about the apparition and leaves. Paul is later dragged into the darkness and gruesomely killed by the woman.
Paul's stepdaughter Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) lives alone in an apartment, away from her mother, Sophie (Maria Bello), and brother, Martin (Gabriel Bateman). Sophie has mental illness and depression that has resurfaced, in which she talks to an apparently imaginary "friend." When Martin sees the apparition with his mom, his fear gives him insomnia. Because he has been falling asleep in class, his teacher Emma (Andi Osho) calls Rebecca to the school. Rebecca takes Martin home, but after a fight with their mother, she takes him to her apartment to protect him. That night, she awakens to scratching by the silhouetted woman, who almost attacks her, though Rebecca manages to turn the light on, making the figure disappear. The next morning, Rebecca finds what the woman was scratching into her floor: the name "Diana." She recalls her own experiences with Diana from her own childhood, and the reason she left when her father abandoned them.
That night, Sophie has a movie night with Martin, but includes her imaginary friend, frightening him. She tells him a story about Diana (Alicia Vela-Bailey), a friend she had when she was in a mental institution for her depression. Diana had an unusual condition that made her skin light-sensitive. Martin looks up to see Diana crouched above him and runs to turn on the light, but Diana throws Sophie out of the way to get to Martin. She fails and Martin escapes to Rebecca's. Rebecca is seen taking a box of documents from Paul's office that contains information on Sophie, and discovers that the doctors experimented on Diana in the institution, killing her by overexposing her to light. The figure is Diana: her vengeful ghost manipulates Sophie to be able to manifest, convincing her that they are friends and killing anyone trying to help her.
Rebecca confronts Sophie about Diana but she denies the accusation. Rebecca, her lover Bret (Alexander DiPersia), and Martin decide to stay overnight to protect Sophie. Rebecca goes to her mom's bedroom door to reconcile when Sophie secretly passes her a note saying "I need help" before Diana tugs her back into the darkness. Rebecca realizes that her mother is being controlled by Diana, and turns on all the lights in the house to keep her away.
Knowing their intentions, Diana traps Rebecca and Martin into the basement by turning off all the lights. Bret is attacked but escapes and contacts the police. Rebecca realizes that while Diana disappears under normal light conditions, the use of a black light can allow them to see her. She discovers scrawled writings along a basement wall, explaining how Diana will not let anyone take Sophie. Diana reveals that she killed Rebecca's father, and that he didn't abandon them.
A pair of police officers arrive to help and are promptly killed by Diana. Rebecca sends Martin outside to Bret, and goes back inside to rescue her mother. Diana is about to kill Rebecca when Sophie arrives brandishing a pistol. Sophie exclaims that she's the only connection Diana has that tethers her to the human world. She sacrifices herself with a bullet to the head in an effort to save her children, causing Diana to burn away and disappear. Afterwards, the police carry away Sophie's body, while Rebecca, Martin, and Bret rendezvous at the ambulance. As they embrace and vow to stay together, the lights in the ambulance momentarily flicker, but Bret dismisses it to Rebecca and Martin's satisfaction.
- Teresa Palmer as Rebecca
- Amiah Miller as Young Rebecca
- Gabriel Bateman as Martin, Rebecca's brother
- Maria Bello as Sophie, Rebecca and Martin's mother
- Emily Alyn Lind as Young Sophie
- Alexander DiPersia as Bret, Rebecca's boyfriend
- Billy Burke as Paul, Rebecca's step-father
- Alicia Vela-Bailey as Diana, a malevolent spirit
- Ava Cantrell as Young Diana
- Lotta Losten as Esther, Paul's assistant
- Andi Osho as Emma
Sandberg, along with his wife Lotta Losten, created the initial short film for a film competition. Although the film did not win said competition, the short soon went viral, leading to Sandberg to be contacted by several agents, to the point where he had to develop a spreadsheet to keep track of them all. One of the contacts was Lawrence Grey who wanted to collaborate with James Wan in order to produce a feature length version. Although Wan enjoyed the short, he was hesitant that it could be turned into a feature until Sandberg produced a treatment for the feature length version.
The move to Hollywood was somewhat hectic for the couple, requiring that Losten quit her day job in order to do so. Once in Hollywood the two were unable to get an apartment due to a lack of credit, forcing them to rent Airbnb on a monthly basis.
The casting of Gabriel Bateman and Teresa Palmer was announced on June 2015; which was the same month that principal photography had began. Sandberg had not worked with a film crew or visited a film set before directing Lights Out; he had to ask the first assistant director, "So when do I say action?". Filming wrapped on 5 August 2015.
The film had its world premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival on June 8, 2016. The film also screened at Comic-Con on July 20, 2016, and was released on July 22, 2016.
In July 2016, it was announced that New Line Cinema and Warner Bros. Pictures had greenlit a sequel for the film. Eric Heisserer and David F. Sandberg will return to write and direct the film, respectively, while James Wan and Lawrence Grey will return to produce under their Atomic Monster and Grey Matter Productions banners.