'Lights Out' Premiere: Star Teresa Palmer Warns Moviegoers They Might Have "Nightmares"
Star Maria Bello tells THR at the Hollywood premiere: "If you take the horror out of this, it's actually a family drama. The characters are beautiful and so well-drawn."
At Tuesday's Hollywood premiere of Lights Out, standing on the black carpet with eerie music playing in the background was the film's pregnant leading lady, Teresa Palmer, who had a simple message for moviegoers: "I want to apologize in advance because I know you’re going to have nightmares and I know your electricity bill is going to go sky-high because you’ll be sleeping with the lights on."
This was a shared sentiment among the cast, especially since many of them found themselves terrified while filming the movie.
"Alicia [Vela-Bailey], who plays Diana, was wearing a suit the entire time, so it wasn’t CGI [computer-generated imagery]," Alexander Dispersia, who plays Bret, told The Hollywood Reporter at the event, held at the TCL Chinese Theatre. "No matter when you saw her, she was scary. The first time I saw her, I wasn’t shooting with her. I was, like, walking around a corner having a latte or something, and there was this creature standing there -- massive dressed in all black, with black contacts and ridiculous looking teeth -- the whole-nine. It was frightening."
Diana's character, and the entire idea for the film, originally came from a YouTube short created by the director making his debut in Lights Out, David F. Sandberg.
Taking a video that isn't even three minutes and turning it into a feature film wasn't an easy task, though.
"It was about the same amount of effort as creating an original," Eric Heisserer, the screenwriter behind the film and producer, told THR.
Even after Sandberg, Heisserer and producers James Wan and Lawrence Grey overcame the challenge of creating a story out of the short video, they still had to be creative with how to tell that story.
"The other challenge was having a monster who’s a silhouette," Grey told THR. "We didn’t use any visual effects, so we needed to lean in to having a brilliant stunt woman to go and move like you’ve never seen anyone move before, and have a prosthetic suit that was very, very real. Like, we didn’t go to the people that did Walking Dead, we went to the guy that won an Academy Award for Mrs. Doubtfire. Just making it very grounded and real."
Decisions like these were made and agreed upon well before the movie went into production. Heisserer told THR that he and the others got together early on to make sure they were on the same page.
"The mistake I’ve seen, or the trap I’ve fallen into before, is getting on board a project that ends up with a number of cooks in the kitchen, and somewhere down the road, you realize that everyone has a different idea of the movie that they’re making. That can cause a friction that more often than not, can end up just sort of watering down a story," Heisserer told THR.
To avoid something like this from happening, Heisserer wrote the script on spec, allowing the group to build the storyline the way they wanted to before approaching any studios.
"By the time we showed up at Newline’s door, we said, ‘Here it is. We all believe in this. Buy it so we can make it, or no -- either way, it’s fine, but we don’t want to spend a year in development and sort of group-think it too much,'" Heisserer told THR.
However, what really sells the film, according to Heisserer, is the acting. And to the cast, the film is a lot more complicated than any typical horror film.
"Yes, it’s a scary film, but at the heart of the story, it’s about this family dealing with dysfunction and this woman’s mental illness," Palmer told THR. "I think this is a beautiful subject to talk about and I’m so glad it’s not brushed under the carpet. Maria Bello does the most sensational job portraying a woman struggling with that, so I’m really proud of it."
Maria Bello plays Palmer's mother, Sophie, who is fighting her depression throughout the film.
"With Lights Out, if you take the horror out of this, it's actually a family drama," Bello told THR. "The characters are beautiful and so well-drawn."
The integration of mental illness was important for the film's creators, Grey added.
"David had this idea of having an imaginary friend for an adult. And you’d never seen that," he told THR. "Then, we had to figure out how to make that credible, which sort of led us to mental illness. And we started talking about how we’ve all had loved ones and friends that suffered from this, but there hasn’t been an iconic movie monster that’s gone at that idea, when the best monsters in film represent fears and things we all suffer from."
Even if moviegoers don't dive this deeply into the film, Lights Out still delivers on its main promise: utilizing the classic fear of the dark.
"I think just the idea is so simple and everyone as a child must of been afraid of the dark at some point," Alicia Vela-Bailey, who plays the terrifying Diana told THR. "Just seeing shadows or something, it plays tricks on your mind. It brings out that childhood fear, I think, in all of us."
Also walking the carpet at the premiere of Lights Out, which hits theaters Friday, were Scandal's Guillermo Diaz and former Glee star Heather Morris.