David Sandberg’s feature directorial debut “Lights Out” has been a box office sensation, grossing over $63.6 million worldwide, on a $4.9 million budget. It was even such a hit that New Line announced the development of a sequel.
The horror flick stars Teresa Palmer as a woman haunted by a creature that only appears when the lights go out. The film was received with a slew of positive reviews but A.V. Club, in particular, noted in their piece that the movie’s ending dealt with a type of symbolic treatment for depression. The helmer, taking notice of the story, reached out to the site to explain the film’s shocking conclusion in more detail.
*Warning: May contain spoilers. Proceed with caution.
The film ends with Sophie realizing that the ghost, Diane, is directly linked to her own consciousness. “So to kill the monster, she kills herself—an ending that felt, to this writer anyway, dangerously close to an endorsement of suicide as a way to free your family from the burden of your depression,” wrote A.V. Club.
While the film does deal with depression, Sandberg’s didn’t intend to have people see it that way.
“When we were starting to talk about making a feature film out of ‘Lights Out,’ I figured I wanted to do something about depression, because I’ve suffered from depression for over a decade now,” explained Sandberg. “And I had a friend who committed suicide. To me, it’s the most terrifying thing there is. So I wrote this treatment for something that was a bit more arthouse, where it was very much an allegory for depression.”
The ending was actually changed during the editing process and the director explained that there was an alternate ending where the movie kept going.
“The movie actually went on for almost 10 more minutes where we find out that this didn’t get rid of Diana, you know, and now depression has consumed Martin instead because his mom’s suicide affected him that much,” he said. “She came back one more time and they dealt with her once and for all.”
Test audiences hated it and thus they got rid of the second ending. “They felt that Sophie was sort of sacrificing herself for her children and to save their lives, and if Diana just came back right after, then, you know, she’d done that for nothing.” He added, “But now it was this feeling of, ‘Oh, s**t.’ Even though people loved it, it could kind of be interpreted as… that suicide helped them, that it was the solution.”
“It’s like, ‘God, I hope people don’t do this,’” he continued, adding that they included a little something to the end to keep the story going. “They’re sitting in the ambulance, and we added the lights flickering to just show that, ‘Okay, maybe it isn’t over yet.’ To me, some people have sort of said, ‘Oh, it’s a happy ending; she shoots herself and everyone’s happy.’ But I think it’s going to ruin them. You see it in Martin’s eyes and Rebecca’s screams. To me, this is something they’re going to have to live with for the rest of their lives. This is something big.”
The good thing is that since the movie was a success, he’ll have the opportunity to expand on the story in the sequel. “I read your review and I’ve seen some other people online interpreting it that way, and it’s like, ‘F**k.’ Now, since it’s made a lot of money already, they want to make a sequel, so it feels like—I really want to [explain] that, just to be able to sort of show what happens after.”