Swedish director David F. Sandberg and stars Teresa Palmer and Maria Bello tell STACK why we should keep the lights on.
Two-and-a-half years ago, unknown Swedish director David F Sandberg uploaded a three minute scary short, Lights Out, to YouTube. Filmed in his apartment, it showcased his wife Lotta Losten as a woman who sees a shadowy figure in the dark, only for it to disappear when she turns on the lights. Within months, it had reached more than 100 million views, and Hollywood producers were calling off the hook courting Sandberg with offers.
“I had so many callers, I had to develop an Excel spreadsheet just to keep all those conversations and offers in place,“ recalls Sandberg who eventually put his faith in horror film meister James Wan and producer Lawrence Grey. In the blink of a light switch, Sandberg and Losten left their Gothenberg apartment and moved to Hollywood, living out of suitcases in countless Airbnbs while Sandberg was given the reigns to Warner Brothers Studios and an A-list cast including Teresa Palmer and Maria Bello to re-tell his creepy tale in feature length format.
The ever sunny Palmer is no stranger to things that go bump in the night, believing that her own Hollywood Hills home may be haunted.
“I was hosting a mommy-and-me swim day at my house and one of the moms told me at the end of the day that an ‘entity’ had been watching us while we all swam in the pool,” she tells STACK. “She told me it was a male entity and not to worry since it was only in one bedroom, and then she waved her hand indicating our bedroom! Our friend who house-sits had also mentioned feeling a presence in our bedroom.”
Wed three years to actor/director Mark Webber with whom she’s expecting their second son later this year, she discussed it with her hubby in bed the same evening. “It was straight out of a horror film plot!” recalls the Adelaide actress. “Just as he said, ‘There’s no such thing as ghosts,’ our wall mirror slid six inches forward and then crashed on the floor. We were both pretty shaken.”
She says her husband still isn’t convinced although she did spot him carrying sage into their bedroom, a do-it-yourself herbal remedy for banishing unwanted spooks.
Portraying Palmer’s possessed mother is Maria Bello, 49, who literally met her screen daughter for the first time five minutes before they played out an emotionally harrowing scene. “I met Teresa in the trailer like ‘hi Mom, hi daughter, let’s go! Let’s do our scene!’ With these low budget, independent films, there’s not a lot of time for rehearsal or talk but James Wan is so excellent at what he does, he’s been around the block, so he had a really good idea about casting, and the greatest A team in terms of production design, DP, and lighting. And David was so ego-less. This was his first feature but he had a very clear vision of what he wanted, and really trusted all of us to do our job.”
Making a cameo in Lights Out is Sandberg’s wife and original Lights Out star, Losten. “I wanted her in the movie because she has been with me every step of this incredible story,” says Sandberg who is currently directing his second horror movie, Annabelle 2.
As a scary postscript, the basement of the 150-year-old house used to film Lights Out in Pasadena mysteriously went up in flames just months after the production.
“You’ve got to wonder, don’t you?” asks Palmer. “I filmed some of the most terrifying, demonic scenes in that basement.”
Lights Out is available on DVD and Blu-ray from October 26.