When the Lights Went Out
dir-scr Pat Holden
prd Bil Bungay, Deepak Nayar
with Kate Ashfield, Steven Waddington, Tasha Connor, Craig Parkinson, Andrea Lowe, Martin Compston, Hannah Clifford, Gary Lewis, Jo Hartley, Tony Pitts, Darren Lynch, Peter Egan
release UK 7.Sep.12
12/UK 1h26
When the Lights Went Out
Pesky ghosts: Connor

ashfield waddington compston
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
When the Lights Went Out Like a British Amityville Horror, this film is based on the outrageous true story of a haunted house. It's an atmospheric film with the ability to give us some great jolts, but it also drifts into movie-style silliness.

In 1974 Yorkshire, Jenny and Len (Ashfield and Waddington) are thrilled to be moving into a new home, although their 17-year-old daughter Sally (Connor) is rather annoyed by the disruption to her life. Then when rolling blackouts plunge them into darkness, they realise that there's something lurking in the darkness. As things get increasingly terrifying, Sally befriends the spirit of a young girl who noisily wants them out of the house. So they seek help from their friends (Parkinson and Lowe), Sally's teacher (Compston), a ghostbuster (Pitts) and a local priest (Lewis).

The film is especially well shot and edited, with a terrific sense of light and shadow set off by the almost comically brown-hued 1970s-kitsch set designs. At the centre, Connor gives us a terrific perspective with her surly mood swings and a desire to just get on with growing up. Along the way Sally befriends the lonely Lucy (Clifford), which gives us telling insight into her personality and also sets the film up for a couple of terrifying set pieces.

The earlier scenes are packed with insinuation and suggestion, from the tiniest movement to the briefest glance, as it's clear something is just not quite right here. Of course, as the story progresses, the filmmakers try to make everything more visual, undermining the suspense with corny effects work. Ghosts are much scarier if we only think we can see them. Once they're rendered in grisly flashback or demonic smoke, they become more than a little ridiculous.

And there are also a few plot elements that jar badly, such as the way priest is coerced into performing an illicit exorcism against his better judgment. But the actors are all excellent, with particularly strong, layered performances from Ashfield, Waddington and Connor as a fragile family trying to hold themselves together even as some unseen force is tearing them apart. And aside from a few unintended giggles, the film is genuinely unnerving. In the best spine-tingling sort of way.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 20.Jul.12

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... When the Lights Went Out Still waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2012 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall