Teresa Palmer didn’t want to do a typical horror film. And with “Lights Out,” she didn’t. It may appear to be a standard ghost movie, where a supernatural presence latches onto a splintered family, just like in “The Conjuring.” But Palmer has a real character to play: a young woman who is pulled back into the life of her estranged, mentally ill mother (Maria Bello) when her house is haunted by an unknown presence that can only be seen when the light switch is on off. In addition to writing, Palmer is also a podcast-nut who’s about to start her own, launching next year and all about her experiences with motherhood.
Since you’re doing your own podcast, I should ask: What podcasts have you been listening to lately?
Obviously “Serial”’s done. They’re doing another season soon. There’s another true crime podcast called “Sword and Scale,” which is nice because it doesn’t glorify any of the crimes. It really helps you sink into the victim’s perspective. It’s very thoughtful and very respectful. I also listen to “Mysterious Universe,” which is all about strange phenomena in the world. And I have my mom podcasts, like “Atomic Moms,” which is my favorite. A very eclectic bunch, but that’s how I roll.
Judging from some of those, you seem to have a bit of a morbid streak.
I’ve always been that way. I watch every crime show — all the true ones, at least, not the fakes ones. I’ve always loved them, even when I was a little girl. When I was six years old I was the one who said in class, “If anyone wants to hear ghost stories, follow me!” I would sit under a tree with a group of kids and I’d make up ghost stories. I can’t explain it. Maybe it’s because I don’t have a ton of darkness in my own life.
And yet you’ve done very few horror films, apart from your first American film, “The Grudge 2.” What was different about this?
I had to do a smart horror film. I needed it to be layered and interesting. My favorite element was how the family felt very real. I’ve dealt with a lot of people in my life who have manic depression and schizoaffective disorder and psychoses. I really could resonate with Rebecca’s decision. It was written so realistically. With genre films that’s very refreshing. I felt it could be a family drama outside the supernatural element.