“The first litmus test is when you see something and you think to yourself, ‘I can’t believe no one has done this before,'” says producer Lawrence Grey about turning a short into a feature. “The next step is talking to the filmmaker and finding out if there is a real vision behind it. Is this someone who got lucky with a stunt, or is this someone with a much greater perspective on the world? You could see David was a big-brained thinker and he was aspiring to do something very important.”
Sandberg was very inexperienced as a filmmaker. “The first time I ever set foot on a film set was on Lights Out as the director! It was scary as hell. I was the least qualified person there,” he says. So Grey brought in “the very best people,” starting with screenwriter Eric Heisserer, who wrote 2011’s The Thing and Final Destination 5. Then they went to James Wan (Saw, Insidious, The Conjuring) to produce, who told Grey it was “heads and tails above everything.” It will be the first release from Wan’s Atomic Monster production company.
“The very best people” also extends to the cast, headlined by Maria Bello (Permanent Midnight, A History of Violence). Bello plays Sophie, a schizophrenic mother who is “unraveling during the story.” “I was amazed that these two people were sitting in their apartment in Sweden, made the short film, and it became this big Hollywood movie,” Bello says. “You don’t quite understand what’s happening, how she is related to her ‘friend’ Diana.” Diana is the ghostly specter that hides in the dark, and has a “mysterious attachment” to Sophie. “Every time Alicia [Vela-Bailey, who plays Diana] got into hair and makeup, with her nails and the way she walked, she would spook me,” Bello admits. “I would turn around and be like, ‘oh my god!’ She’s so sweet and good natured, then she puts on this makeup and she is terrifying!”
Official synopsis: When Rebecca left home, she thought she left her childhood fears behind. Growing up, she was never really sure of what was and wasn’t real when the lights went out…and now her little brother, Martin, is experiencing the same unexplained and terrifying events that had once tested her sanity and threatened her safety. A frightening entity with a mysterious attachment to their mother, Sophie, has reemerged. But this time, as Rebecca gets closer to unlocking the truth, there is no denying that all their lives are in danger… once the lights go out.
Lights Out hits theaters on July 22.
Photo: Alyse Wax / CraveOnline