When The Lights Went Out


Directed by Pat Holden

Starring –  Kate Asfield,Craig Parkinson and Steven Waddington

BASED on a true story. Possibly THE most terrifying words that can ever be connected to a horror movie. Psycho (1960), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) and The Exorcist (1973) are just a sample of the horror movies purported to be based on real events. When The Lights Went Out is not simply based on a true story, but on the most violent haunting ever recorded in Europe.

Like director Pat Holden’s last film, Awaydays (2009), When The Lights Went Out is a period affair, set against the backdrop of seventies power cuts in Yorkshire. The set-up to the film is a simple one, Len, his wife, Jenny, and daughter, Sally, move into a new house, but soon their joy turns to despair as they discover they are not alone in their new home.

Holden has assembled a strong, experienced cast with fine supporting work from Craig Parkinson, Steven Waddington and Kate Ashfield; while Sally, the film’s heroine, is played by newcomer Tasha Connor and she carries the film with commendable sensitivity and complexity.

Equally the film itself is well crafted. Jonathan Harvey’s shallow-focus, gloomy cinematography amplifies the foreboding dread that seems to ooze out of the walls of the house. Marrying a child-like music box sound to more discordant atmospherics, Marc Canham’s music is a real triumph and could see the hitherto computer game composer become an emerging talent in the film world.

However, When The Lights Went Out fails to live up to the real events that inspired it. The story of a murder whose identity was covered up is an interesting one, but the film takes too long to set this up after the almost immediate discovery of the poltergeist. The final act is actually quite strong, with the characters finally confronting the presence in their house, however, the tension in the film has almost burned out by this point and there are some issues in the scene continuity as the film races to a finale.

An excellent false ending, however, should bring any audience back into the film and although the ghost’s literal manifestation leaves something to be desired in a romanticized ending, the film ends more on a shriek than an apathetic whimper.

When The Lights Went Out is another solid entry in the re-emerging genre of British horror, but fails to build upon the promise of Hammer’s The Woman In Black.

Review By Richard Davis

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