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. Warning may contain spoilers!
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.