Since the dawn of cinema, the dark has been as important to horror as monsters, blood, and jump-out-of-your-seat scares. Lights Out – out on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Download now – takes it a step further by turning that inherent human fear of what lingers in the shadows (c’mon, admit it – we’re all a bit scared of it) into a reality with its dark-dwelling demon Diana.
To celebrate, we take a look back at the characters from movie history for whom the darkness is not just a side of their personality, but a part of their very being and power to terrify.
- As Seen In: Dracula (1931)
- From: Transylvania. Though partial to the odd British holiday.
- Profile: Dracula (Bela Lugosi) is an ancient-but-charming aristocrat with a big castle and dodgy accent. Likes sucking blood and terrorizing English toffs.
- The Story: The Count comes to England for a spot of neck biting, but gets the stake from Professor Van Helsing (Edward Van Sloan).
- The Dark Side: The sunlight kills Dracula. Or weakens him (depends on which film you’re watching, to be honest). Either way, he’d prefer you kept the blinds shut.
- Some Light On The Subject: With his big shadowy castle, fear of daylight, and penchant for a midnight snack, Dracula is cinema’s original “creature of the night”.
- As Seen In: Gremlins (1984)
- From: Discovered in a Chinatown antiques shop, albeit in their much cuter Mogwai form.
- Profile: The Mogwais turn into mischievous green monsters, who enjoy messing with electrics and, erm, watching Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.
- The Story: The Gremlins run amok over wholesome town Kingston Falls and ruin Christmas.
- The Dark Side: Much like Dracula, sunlight kills them. Even a camera flash sends them scurrying.
- Some Light On The Subject: The Gremlins take a classic horror trope – the monster who doesn’t like light – and make it one the film’s three “rules” (no bright lights, no feeding after midnight, and DON’T get them wet – that’s just asking for trouble, that is).
- As Seen In: The Silence of the Lambs (1990)
- From: Ohio, where he has the most bizarre workshop in the history of tailoring.
- Profile: Real name Jame Gumb (Ted Levine), a serial killer who kidnaps women so he can make his his own “woman suit” with their skin.
- The Story: Dr Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) helps FBI agent Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster). After noshing the faces off a few prisons guards, naturally.
- The Dark Side: Gumb traps Starling in his cellar, stalking her in his night vision goggles.
- Some Light On The Subject: The dark becomes a deadly weapon. It’s masterful stuff, using the viewer’s primal fear of darkness to create scares.
- As Seen In: Pitch Black (2000)
- From: A planet in the M-344/G System. Science speak for “somewhere in deep space”.
- Profile: Species of aliens that live in the darkness. Look like a much daintier hammerhead shark. Dangerous, but no match for intergalactic criminal Riddick (Vin Diesel).
- The Story: Riddick and a ship of space travelers crash land on the planet, just as it’s about to enter a moth-long eclipse. Typical.
- The Dark Side: Another one that can’t stand the sunlight. Strange that they should live on a planet that only gets dark every 22 years.
- Some Light On The Subject: This does for the dark what Jaws did for the ocean.
Anne and Nicholas Stewart
- As Seen In: The Others (2001)
- From: A dusty old house on Jersey, where they live with their uptight mother Grace (Nicole Kidman).
- Profile: Deathly pale and mollycoddled.
- The Story: After new servants arrives at the house, strange events lead the family to believe the house may be haunted. Probably never occurred to them that they’re the ghosts.
- The Dark Side: They suffer from a rare photosensitive condition – forcing their neurotic mother to obsessively close the curtains. It wouldn’t be so bad if they didn’t keep mysteriously opening on their own. Spooky.
- Some Light On The Subject: The kids’ condition is a smart twist on an old horror trope, making the darkness a key plot device.
- As Seen In: Batman Begins (2005)
- From: Gotham City. Which is about as dark-sounding as a city gets.
- Profile: Orphaned billionaire who dresses up like a bat.
- The Story: After witnessing his parents’ murder, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) reinvents himself as the Dark Knight, turning feat back on the criminals.
- The Dark Side: Spends most of his time creeping around in the shadows on tip-toes so he can jump out on the baddies.
- Some Light On The Subject: Though not an actual horror character, Batman is intrinsically tied to the night, fear, and darkness – fusing super-heroics with gothic elements. Check out his first mission in the Bat-suit, lunging out of the shadows vampire-like to snare his prey.
- As Seen In: Lights Out (2016)
- From: An old mental institute, where she was killed in a freak accident while doctors attempted to treat her light-sensitive skin condition.
- Profile: Returning from the dead, she’s become a crazed psychotic obsessed with keeping former institute pal Sophie (Maria Bello) all to herself.
- The Story: Diana stalks or kills anyone who stands in the way of her friendship with Sophie. Bad news for her kids Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) and Martin (Gabriel Bateman).
- The Dark Side: Like all great monsters, Diana can only exist in the dark. So keep those lights very much on.
- Some Light On The Subject: Perhaps the most ingenious take on cinema’s of the dark yet. The darkness becomes the monster.
Lights Out is on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Download now.