Centered on youngsters tempting fate in reputedly haunted woods, "Nightlight" has all the trappings of your garden-variety found-footage horror flick: murky, shaky cinema verité that disorients and leaves much to your imagination. But the film's POV shots aren't as seen through the typical viewfinder. Instead, it presents the perspective of a flashlight.
While the premise is as absurd as it sounds, it does buck the trend of recent found-footage films that defy their internal logic with parts not produced by cameras available within the story.
After the unpopular Ethan (Kyle Fain) commits suicide, his only friend, Robin (Shelby Young), and four cool kids she'd like to impress make an after-dark visit to the forest where Ethan took his life. They're there to play the elaborate "nightlight" game, which entails both running on the tracks in front of a moving train and playing hide-and-seek, among other silly high jinks.
Chris (Carter Jenkins) relays area ghost stories to his disbelieving buddies, foreshadowing the proceedings to moviegoers who know better. As a result, filmmakers Scott Beck and Bryan Woods water down the element of surprise, even if they get the found footage shtick down to a science.
One can only hope that the upcoming "Unfriended" — another found-footage film about the ghost of a teen exacting paranormal revenge on tormentors — will be the game changer this subgenre badly needs.
MPAA rating: R for language throughout including sexual references, and some violence.
Running time: 1 hour, 23 minutes.