In my analysis of episode 1, I had a tangent about the 2013 short horror film Lights Out. I have watched this film literally dozens of times, as at one point I had planned on writing an in-depth analysis of it.
(What happened instead was I internalized the logic of the film and scared myself witless for a few months.)
Anyway, in all the times I watched it, I apparently missed a crucial detail. In the sequence I described, where there’s a shadowy figure in the hallway that’s only visible when the lights are out, I said that the last time the light is flicked off, the figure is gone.
Well, I was wrong.
Today, for unrelated research purposes, I was reading a plot summary on Wikipedia that said the last time, the figure is closer. I thought, “That’s wrong, they’ve gotten this completely wrong”… but then I went back and did something I haven’t done since 2013, which is watch it again, at least through the opening sequence.
And if they were wrong, then it’s only as an understatement. The figure is right in front of the protagonist, so close as to be illuminated by the light spilling out from behind her. You don’t get a good look because the figure is facing away, which somehow adds to the creepiness as it doesn’t seem like she moved closer, just that she is closer.
I missed this every single time because I was watching on a small screen and my gaze was focused on the spot where the figure appeared the first time, waiting to see what it will do… and from my point of view, what it did was just mysteriously fail to appear.
And the thing is, that worked for me. It was creepy. Horror at its best. The more traditional jump scare that actually happens is effective, but that’s all. It takes the film from a 10/10 to a 9/10 for me. It also shifts my understanding of the protagonist’s actions as someone who still isn’t quite sure if she *really* saw something.
The funny thing is, I’ve been talking about this scene for years, including to other people who have seen it, and no one’s ever corrected me. I’ve had people agree that the sudden absence is among the scariest things they’ve ever seen. So I’m apparently not the only one who made this mistake.
It’s an interesting commentary on the difference in viewpoints between the camera/audience and the protagonist who is, theoretically, the viewpoint character. The figure is right in front of the protagonist; she can’t fail to notice it. But the camera is framing the scene the same as it did when we were supposed to notice the thing down the hall, and some of us are still looking down the hall so hard we miss what’s supposed to be closer.
I’m going to go ahead and leave my commentary unedited, but with this correction on the blog.