Lights Out gets obvious way too fast given it’s a five minute short. The film opens with Alixzandra Dove in a mostly dark house, folding clothes while she talks to a friend on the phone. There’s a little exposition from the phone call—Dove’s kid has outgrown some clothes, Dove’s partner has been away two weeks but is coming home that night—while Dove tries to find something to do. She turns out the kid’s light, heads into the bedroom to read a book (while still on the phone call), only for the kid to turn the light back on. He’s goofing off instead of going to bed, which frustrates Dove.
The short’s a morose affair, with Dove alternating between yelling at the kid and being exasperated with the phone call. Writer Kelly Peters carefully puts some clues throughout the short as to the eventual twist, but they’re all painfully obvious because they’re the only time there’s anything interesting in the conversation. Peters is way too obvious when she’s trying to misdirect. Or maybe Dove’s performance is too flat. Or not flat enough.
Because Dove’s not bad. There’s only so far to take Lights Out and Dove gets about as much mileage out of the five minutes as she can, especially since the phone call conversation isn’t anything special. Bloch’s direction is okay. Technically, with some great photography by Cooper Ulrich, Bloch does an excellent job. Her composition, how she directs Dove, how she and Bret Allen cut the thing together… eh.
That technical excellence, particularly how well Ulrich can light the mostly dark house, it sets a high bar for Lights Out. And the short doesn’t even begin to reach it.
It all starts to fall apart at the end—which is concerning as they only had to keep the momentum going for five minutes—but it does end before it gets too bad.
Out is kind of a disappointment, kind of a shrug.
Directed by Savannah Bloch; written by Kelly Peters; director of photography, Cooper Ulrich; edited by Bret Allen; music by Lars Hempel; production designer, Daniel S. James Jr.; produced by Alixzandra Dove and Linda Rothschild.
Starring Alixzandra Dove (Joanne).