‘Lights Out’: James Wan and Director David Sandberg on Making a “Fun” Horror Movie

     March 26, 2016


Fear of the dark is conducive to horror. It’s elemental in its simplicity. A darkened room, a flickering hallway, a shady alley – all naturally provoke an instinctual fear of the unknown. Horror films expertly tap into this fear, playing with what exactly lurks down that darkened hallway, alley and (most terrifyingly) in your own room. In David Sandberg’s 2013 horror short Lights Out, a woman is terrorized by something lurking within the darkness of her home. The catch – this something only comes out when she shuts the lights off. The short runs less than three-minutes but somehow manages to be more unsettling and frightening than most ninety-minute features. It’s available here and well worth your time.

Sandberg’s short drew the attention of horror maven James Wan (The Conjuring) and now three years later, Sandberg has directed a feature length version. At the WonderCon panel for Lights Out, Wan and Lawrence Grey (serving as producers) and director David Sandberg, alongside stars Maria BelloGabriel Batemen and Charlotta Losten previewed what to expect from the horror film. For highlights from the panel, read below.

Footage Summary:

Wan premiered the creepy first trailer for the film – which you can view right here.

Panel Highlights:

lights-out-posterWan stated the appeal of producing Lights Out started with the filmmaker. “I’m always excited when I can discover new filmmakers” Wan said, “With my production company Atomic Monster, I want to give new filmmakers the chance to do what I did [with Saw].”

Per Wan: “What I love about the concept [of Lights Out] and what I love about the script is that it’s a fun movie. I want to start off making the kinds of films that I loved growing up as a kid. Fun horror films that are scary but at the same time after you finish the movie, it leaves you excited to see more. That was the criteria.”

A year ago David Sandberg was living in an apartment in Sweden. It was surreal to suddenly get a call to fly to Hollywood and turn his short into a feature. Lights Out was the first time Sandberg had ever “set foot on set as the director of a big budget Hollywood film”.

On developing the concept of Lights Out: Sandberg offered, “In a lot of films you have a kid who has an invisible friend… I thought it would be more scary if it was the parent who had the invisible friend.” It was from this kernel that the rest of the story came from.

Maria Bello described her terrified reaction to seeing the movie the first time a couple days ago. “I watched the movie between my fingers” she admitted, “I knew what was going to happen and I was still scared.” On what drew her to working with a first time filmmaker, Bello stated that it was the drama that drew her in. “For a horror film, it’s such a drama – a family drama. Bello described her character Sophie as “a schizophrenic suffering mental delusions. It was hard to play someone who loves their children but at the same time is tormented by her own demons.”


Image via New Line/Warner Bros.

David Sandberg cited The Shining and James Wan’s own films as the primary influences on Lights Out.

What advice did James Wan offer to the first time filmmaker before he started shooting Lights Out? “I just told him to have fun with it” Wan offered, “Just trust your own instinct.”

Having James Wan on set helped Sandberg to accomplish his vision. He recalled one instance where a character only has a candle for a light. Sandberg wanted to shoot the scene with only candlelight. Production though quickly shot the suggestion down, stating it would be impossible to shoot the scene with just a candle. Later when Wan was visiting set, before the scene was shot, he offered that maybe it would be better to shoot this scene with just candle light. Of course immediately everyone agreed with Wan and said let’s do that. “So having James [on set] was good in that way” Sandberg joked.

Lights Out opens in theaters everywhere July 22nd


image via Warner Bros.

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