How new director turned viral his short film ‘Lights Out’ into full-length horror feature

Barely two years ago, 35-year-old Swede David F. Sandberg was a debt-ridden wannabe filmmaker who had never held a steady job, let alone made a feature. He had been rejected by the Swedish Film Institute even for a relatively modest shorts investment. He and his wife, Lotta Losten, got by in part on her salary as an employee.

But a short film the couple made in their apartment in Sweden — about a woman who sees a scary supernatural creature only when the lights are out — changed their fortunes. The piece was made for a contest run by the horror website Bloody Disgusting. Less than three minutes long, with no dialogue or budget (Losten played both the woman and the apparition), “Lights Out” unexpectedly went viral via Reddit — nearly a year after they made it.

As the online legend of “Lights Out” began to grow, Hollywood agents and producers took notice, culminating in New Line/Warner Bros. making a feature deal. When the resultant movie premiered last June at the Los Angeles Film Festival ahead of its July 22 theatrical release, “Lights Out” concluded one of the most improbable of modern filmmaking journeys.

“I had a long-term plan to make these little shorts,” Sandberg said, “and maybe we could prove to the Swedish Film Institute that we knew we what we’re doing, and get money for a longer short, and then eventually money for a Swedish feature.”

He paused. “It’s been interesting to skip all those steps.”

“Lights Out” (the full-length feature) centers on twentysomething Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) and her pre-adolescent brother Martin (Gabriel Bateman), whose mother, Sophie (Maria Bello), suffers from a disassociative mental illness that has her talking to a friend no one else sees. When Rebecca and Martin start spotting an apparition in the dark, they wonder if they too are suffering from a disorder. They set out to discover the truth.

Sandberg had come up with the idea on a whim, as he thought about those innocuous bedroom silhouettes that look more ominous in the midnight dark. He was soon playing with the effects (simple, involving a split screen) and turning the lights on and off.

“It’s something everyone experiences,” Sandberg said. “I was almost surprised no one had explored it before.”

He was truly taken aback, though, when months later, in spring 2014, the short went everywhere. “Someone had linked to it on Reddit. I saw it had 8,000 views, and I thought, ‘That’s awesome.’ And then it had 70,000 views, and I thought, ‘That’s awesome too.’ And then it went to a million and it became a crazy circus,” he said of the movie, whose minimalist concept and undercurrent of jittery dread helped it hop borders. “I had to make a spreadsheet of all the [industry] people I talked to and what we said the last time we spoke.”

One of the people who got in touch was Lawrence Grey, a producer known for variety of genre and other fare from newer creators. (“Hidden,” “Last Vegas”). Grey saw in “Lights Out” the potential for a much larger story. He soon brought on veteran horror screenwriter Eric Heisserer (2010’s “A Nightmare on Elm Street”) and James Wan (“Saw,” “The Conjuring” franchise), the latter spitballing a series of ideas with Sandberg.

With high-return genre investments such as “Annabelle” paying off in recent summers, New Line soon greenlighted the movie, fast-tracking it so that it was shooting in a manner of months, keeping Sandberg aboard.

“I was a little shocked they would let me direct, because everything I had ever done on movies was in my apartment by myself,” Sandberg said. “I think they thought I was more experienced than I was.”

Grey said he realized the flier everyone was taking. “The first movie set David was ever on was the set of his own Warner Bros. film. So he is very green,” the producer laughed. “But I think no matter how many movies you’ve made, it comes down to taste, and you could tell right away David had it.”

Slated for release across the Philippines on July 21, 2016, “Lights Out” is distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.

Kristen Wiig, from ‘The Martian’ to ‘Ghostbusters’

Coming off an acclaimed turn in the Oscar-nominated “The Martian,” top American comedienne Kristen Wiig stars as Erin Gilbert, a particle physicist, academic firebrand and spectral warrior in Columbia Pictures’ new action-adventure “Ghostbusters.”

“Ghostbusters” makes its long-awaited return, rebooted with a cast of hilarious new characters. Thirty years after the beloved original franchise took the world by storm, director Paul Feig brings his fresh take to the supernatural comedy, joined by some of the funniest actors working today – Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, and Chris Hemsworth. This July, they’re here to save the world!

When it came to casting the role of Erin, director Paul Feig says “Kristen’s name just kept coming up, but I didn’t even know if she’d want to do it, because she’s been showing what a great actress she is in so many dramas lately. Then, out of the blue, my wife was talking to Kristen and she said, ‘Oh, I know Paul’s doing `Ghostbusters,’ and if he’d ever want me to do any little part in it, I’d love to.’ That was music to my ears, because Kristen would be so good in this role. She’s really one of the funniest people in the world – she makes me laugh and always has.”

Wiig’s character, Erin Gilbert, believed in ghosts as a child, but as her physics career grew, she realized that her fascination with the paranormal was holding her back and hurting her credibility. She determines to put that old life behind her and forge a new career as a legitimate scientist… until her past comes back to haunt her.

“Erin grew up believing in ghosts – she actually saw a ghost when she was a child, and no one believed her, except Melissa McCarthy’s character, Abby,” says Wiig. “That really scarred her. She wanted to live a life where she wasn’t the weird one, so she left the paranormal world behind and went into academia, becoming a professor at Columbia University. Of course, she finds Abby again and meets Holtzmann and Patty. As it turns out, they’re these four misfits that find each other. I love that kind of story.”

Wiig relished the chance to do stunts for the film. ”It was unlike anything I’ve ever done before. We couldn’t wait to get into the stunt rehearsals.”

Wiig was similarly thrilled by the chemistry between the four Ghostbusters. “It’s always a great experience when you can find that right project to work with your friends and people that you love,” she says. “I’ve known Melissa for many, many years – we knew each other for almost 10 years before ‘Bridesmaids.’ She’s just really, really fun to work with and we laugh all the time, so it was so nice to be together again. Leslie makes me laugh so hard with everything she does – every time Leslie said something, I would just lose it. It’s a very funny character, but I don’t even have words for what she does with every line – she’s so specific and it comes directly from her. And Kate – Kate’s the best. I find her so interesting. She’s so fearless – she takes chances every scene. She does the unexpected, and it’s always funny. I love watching her.”

“Ghostbusters” is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International.

‘The Purge: Election Year’ welcomes world to join bloodbath

A great American tradition welcomes the world to participate in Universal Pictures’ “The Purge: Election Year.”

In the trailer, the annual Purge has now been opened to foreigners, triggering the arrival of “murder tourists” eager to take part in the bloodbath.

Expanding the universe introduced in the hit franchise that electrified the culture and earned $200 million at the worldwide box office, “The Purge: Election Year” reveals the next terrifying chapter that occurs over 12 hours of annual lawlessness sanctioned by the New Founders of America to keep this country great.

the purge election year movie

It’s been two years since Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo) stopped himself from a regrettable act of revenge on Purge Night. Now serving as head of security for Senator Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell), his mission is to protect her in a run for president and survive the annual ritual that targets the poor and innocent. But when a betrayal forces them onto the streets of D.C. on the one night when no help is available, they must stay alive until dawn…or both be sacrificed for their sins against the state.

Once again returning to collaborate with franchise creator James DeMonaco on “The Purge: Election Year” are the series’ producers: Blumhouse Productions’ Jason Blum (“Insidious” and “Ouija” series, “The Visit”), Platinum Dunes partners Michael Bay, Brad Fuller and Andrew Form (“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” series, “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”), and writer/director DeMonaco’s longtime production partner, Sébastien K. Lemercier (“Assault on Precinct 13”).

Now showing across the Philippines, “The Purge: Election Year” is distributed by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.

WATCH: Tom Hanks must stop global plague in new trailer for ‘Inferno’

“Dark days of hell isn’t fiction. It’s prophecy.” So starts the latest trailer of Columbia Pictures & IMAGINE Entertainment’s new action-thriller “Inferno” starring Tom Hanks as symbologist Robert Langdon who must solve a deadly puzzle to avert a global plague.

“Inferno” is the third film in the studio’s Robert Langdon series (including “The Da Vinci Code” and “Angels & Demons”).

Academy Award® winner Ron Howard returns to direct the latest bestseller in Dan Brown’s (“The Da Vinci Code”) billion-dollar Robert Langdon series, “Inferno,” which finds the famous symbologist (again played by Tom Hanks) on a trail of clues tied to the great Dante himself. When Langdon wakes up in an Italian hospital with amnesia, he teams up with Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones), a doctor he hopes will help him recover his memories. Together, they race across Europe and against the clock to stop a madman from unleashing a global virus that would wipe out half of the world’s population.

Written by David Koepp based on the novel by Dan Brown, “Inferno” also stars Irrfan Khan, Omar Sy, Ben Foster and Sidse Babett Knudsen.

Opening across the Philippines on October 28, 2016, “Inferno” is distributed by Columbia Pictures in the Philippines, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International.