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When the Lights Went Out is written and directed by Pat Holden. It
stars Steven Waddington, Kate Ashfield, Natasha Connor, Craig
Parkinson, Jo Hartley and Martin Compston. Film is based on alleged
real life events that were recorded in Pontefract, England, in 1974.
After the Pritchard family moved into their new house on the
Chequerfield Estate, poltergeist activity reached such a level it has
been called the most violent poltergeist haunting ever witnessed in
Director Holden, who made the criminally under valued Awaydays, helms his picture with genuine love and thought for the topic. Being related to the Pritchard family he had wanted to make the film for some time, it's a noble effort even though it never achieves all that it can.
There are two main problems that will ensure the film will stay rooted on the bottom shelves of DVD stockists and collectors. Problem one is that it is uncomfortable in mixing comedy with drama, something that practically kills a key scene in the last quarter. It's useful to understand that these Yorkshire folk are made of tough stuff, ready to offer a quip in the face of adversity, but it has to be pitched right and here it negates much of the pent-up terror.
The other key issue is that it's so stunning in its period design (this really deserves the highest praise for the makers), anyone from the 1970s is guaranteed to be spending much of the film pointing out things and reminiscing. I know I was! Garish wallpaper designs, toys like Slinky and Buckaroo, rum and pep and Babycham in the smoky pubs, The Sweet singing Little Willy and a hairy Noel Edmonds on Top of the Pops, these are just some of the things to make film fans who were reared in the 70s smile during this particular horror film!
As a tale it's creepy enough, the cold backdrop of a Yorkshire council estate suits the story no end, and in spite of a bad misstep when Holden uses CGI in the finale, the shocks and unease moments are nicely handled. While the human interest factor always remains high and there's a bit of thought within the writing to off set the normal question of "why don't they just move house?".
It's also well performed by the cast, with youngster Connor really shining bright, and with Holden keeping things brisk the picture never gets bogged down with pointless scene fillers. Is it scary? Away from the flares, wallpaper and hair styles that is! Well no it isn't really, it's more an effective ghost yarn than anything else. So needless to say, the blood lust gore crowd or those expecting a battle between religion and demon, need not apply here. 6.5/10
I reluctantly began watching what seemed to be yet another Paranormal
Activity ripoff but was gradually pulled into the storyline by Pat
Holden's fine direction and performances. The mood was effective as was
the music score and sound design. I'm a big fan of ghost films,
particularly Robert Wise's THE HAUNTING and Peter Medak's THE
CHANGELING. While this film doesn't reach those heights, it is so much
more effective than any of the American ghost films of the last few
I'm also intrigued by paranormal films based on true stories, which this one claims to be, adding more creepiness to the viewing. Making a good chilling film is not nearly as easy as it seems, so hats off to the creators of this good little film.
I saw this at a preview screening tonight in London. Its a British
supernatural haunted house film set in Yorkshire 1974 and is apparently
based on a true story.
The 70s Britain backdrop is suitably done reflecting the country's financial struggles of its time and if you remember growing up in 70s Britain, there are some fond nostalgic touches to enjoy. The story, however is a typical haunted house affair. A working class family (mother, father and a thirteen year old daughter) moves into a new home in the suburbs. Of course the new home is haunted and aggressively so. The family becomes rather concerned about this little negative point....which unfortunately is the first of this film's many problems.
See, the family's reaction to the haunting is ridiculously flippant. They accept the haunting too easily, despite its obvious aggression. The family are mostly naive and unlikeable which doesn't help me root for them. The performance of the 13 year old is initially quite annoying in her mannerisms but she is deliberately playing a stroppy teenager who lacks self esteem and friends, and she portrays that well. She has just one school friend, who seems to be a much more accomplished little actress and was very charming. In fact, the film had more spark every time she was on the screen. The friendship drama with the children, their isolation and their struggles against bullies was actually far more interesting and captivating than the house haunting itself.
Which brings me to the films's biggest problem of all. If you have seen just a few supernatural films, then this wont likely scare you. Its not completely devoid of "boo" moments but there is absolutely nothing new here and its embarrassingly clichéd. Almost every attempted boo moment is lifted from classics such as Poltergeist, Sixth Sense, and Paranormal Activity but with inferior results and sometimes laughably ridiculous visuals that is too illogical even for a Loony Tunes cartoon. Perhaps the scares would be effective to complete virgins of supernatural films. Its possible that I may have seen too many supernatural films myself being a massive fan of the genre for these scare attempts to be effective on me but the scares here are still poorly executed and devoid of logic. I mean for Pete's sake, even the real ghosts will cringe and come out into the open to declare how mind numbingly silly the hauntings are in this film. I just know they would be saying: "we can shift stuff, make you cold, blow a breeze, play with lights and shadows but we don't do bleeding magic tricks".
It seems to me this film's success will be dependant on its "based on a true story" premise and its Yorkshire setting flavour.
There are some redeeming features about the film, I have already mentioned about the children's drama and nostalgic setting of 70s Britain but the film did also offer a surprising and most welcome period of comic relief towards the end which brought genuine chuckles out of me. I did enjoy that and felt relieved that the film had at least something more to offer. If only it could have given more of that kind of humour earlier to make up for the lack of effective scares.
There is no blood and gore by the way, in case you are concerned about that. And only one f-word is used (to comical effect actually) so, this might earn a rating of PG13. By all means still go see this, if you are very easily scared and are content to be scared for only one or two effective moments.
Being based on a true story might be a pulling factor but I personally think its a cop out.
I rate this 6/10...mainly for the captivating school friendship drama, the sudden burst of humour and for me personally, a retro nostalgia of 70s Britain. Scare factor scale, however, an abysmal zero.
A have read a review on this site, where the poster says he or she has seen similar things in other horror films. This may be true but it is pretty hard with poltergeist movies not to duplicate, things being displaced etc, I found the setting of 70's Britain excellent,having lived through the 70's it brought back memories of collars on the outside of jackets and the humour added another dimension. The acting was realistic and unlike so many films there was a story which had a conclusion. How many times do we sit with the credits coming down and think "is that it, has it finished?" Personally I don't believe in ghosts, poltergeists, exorcisms, etc but this film kept me entertained which is all you can ask.
I really enjoyed the fact that this was old fashioned, yes obviously, due to the fact it is set in the 70s but I enjoyed that it was slow and simmering. The attention to detail in the sets and costumes really helped the whole feel and the acting was excellent and very natural. There are moments of black humour and the language and responses are very British, which I appreciated. Yes, it's nothing new but sometimes you just want a ghost story to give you chills and make you look twice at any open door at night when you are going upstairs! It is a shame the last 5 minutes let it all down so badly, no spoilers here but watch it and see what I mean. I'd say give it a go, it might just give you the creeps.
This movie turned out to be somewhat of a surprise - at least it was to
me. What worked out so well in this movie was the mood that they
managed to build up, because the story itself was fairly generic. The
movie starts out slow, and then gradually builds up in intensity and
The story in "When the Lights Went Out" is about a small family back in the 1970's where the young daughter starts experiencing strange things happening in their home. These occurrences build up in intensity and eventually start to be physically threatening to the family and anyone entering the house.
If you are a regular to horror movies, and to ghost movies in particular, then you'll not really find anything new or overly innovating here in this movie. That being said, don't get it wrong, I am not saying that "When the Lights Went Out" is a bad movie, far from it, but it just doesn't really offer anything that haven't really been seen before.
As I mentioned above, then it is the mood of the movie that is the centerpiece for this movie, as the director managed to put together something dark and sinister, that slowly escalates and keeps you firmly in your seat. And the approach to the story as to who is actually haunting the family was quite nice - and no, I am not going to spoil anything for you here - just watch it for yourself.
If you enjoy a proper horror movie that involves ghosts and hauntings, then "When the Lights Went Out" is well worth a watch. Though, this is hardly the type of movie that you'll watch a second time around once you've seen it the first time.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Low-budget British paranormal chiller that avoids (praise be) the
increasingly overused found-footage gimmick and settles instead for a
traditionally scripted and shot narrative.
It's a haunted house picture, set in the early 70s on a working class housing estate in Yorkshire. The period is nicely evoked, along with depictions of industrial action and accompanying power-cuts. Salt-of-the-earth-type mum and dad move into a council dream-home with teen daughter. Before long, poltergeist activity kicks off, escalating into increasingly violent attacks and malevolent manifestations. There's the restless spirit of a murdered little girl and...something much darker at play.
Part traditional horror fodder, part social commentary on the parenting "skills" of the time, it is refreshingly unpretentious and doesn't waste the first half of the film with a protracted focus on the adults/disbelievers coming to terms with what is actually going on.
Based on an apparently true case of a 1960s "haunting" it does have a unique ring of authenticity in characterisation, setting and execution. There are echoes of KES-era Ken Loach, neo-realistic British kitchen-sink drama and Play For Today tropes integrated quite seamlessly with post-modern RING/GRUDGE schema. This is all great until the CGI workout kicks in at the end, with a jarring and disconnecting effect, as though suddenly the audience is wrenched out of a skilfully constructed reality into a whole different stylistic architecture where Hollywood's POLTERGEIST runs the show.
Full of nice disconcerting moments and some creepy turns, both fully lit and when the power cuts out, this is much more satisfying than many of its cookie-cutter US counterparts. Can't beat a good old-fashioned British ghost story for inducing a bit of skin-creeping fun. Also, once again, nice to see a modern horror picture with a positive outcome.
Okay, take Poltergeist and The Exorcist then move them to seventies
Yorkshire and you basically have When the Lights Went Out. It's
supposedly based on a true story (but aren't they always?) about a
family who encounter a particularly nasty spook in their house.
This is a film where I can find many positives and only one negative. The good things are the setting (if you ignore the occasional Sky Digital dish in the background). They do a good job of portraying seventies England. The actors are also all believable. The film centres quite a bit on two young girls. Kids in films (and especially horror films) tend to be either highly annoying, or just totally unlikeable. However, I found these two girls quite endearing and hopefully they will have a long acting career ahead of them. Also, it's quite creepy. The scares are sometimes predictable, but they're there nonetheless.
About the only thing that's negative is that - as far as story-telling goes - is that there's nothing new here. Hollywood has been churning out these sorts of films for years and all you have here is a British (period) version of one of those types.
If you're in the mood for an easy-going British horror flick, definitely give this one a go. Just don't expect anything revolutionary.
"When the lights went out," is a supposedly true story of a haunting/
exorcism that takes place in England during 1974, and seems more like a
reinterpretation of New England's haunting stories of the same era.
Somehow the 70's were so bad and dull that even ghosts had to find more
Good: The acting was fine, not great or memorable but fine. The story is a good one, even if over used by movies and the "true story" part is always somewhat of a draw. Although I question the trueness. Being set in the 1970's wasn't too bad and I think they hit the overall 70's feel and look pretty well. The whole haunting thing is always popular as well which always makes a film alluring to watch.
The Bad: Nothing new to see here, except it takes place in England instead of the eastern U.S. "When the lights went out," is another story, supposedly based on true story, that takes place in the 1970's, oddly like another true story in the 1970's "Amityville Horror" (1979) and contains a bit of demonic possession, much like another 1970's movie "The Exorcist"(1973). How many films to the makers of this one think we haven't seen or forgot. There was also very little to cause you to jump in your seat or really fill you with fright when you really do turn out the lights.
I give it a 6 out of 10. It was interesting to watch, they did well bringing the 70's era into it, and not to much to gripe about acting wise. The originalness of the story is questionable at best, and seems to be a combination of a few older movies that came out in the era it takes place. It wasn't nearly scary, and other than a few tiny parts, provided none of the "jump" effect a movie like this needs.
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Yorkshire, 1974: the Maynard family moves into their dream house but
soon discovery it is already occupied by a violent spirit.
Based on what is regarded as the most violent poltergeist haunting in Europe and not to be confused with the 'Enfield Poltergeist', from the metal bins to glass milk bottles, cigarette filled pubs, Buckaroo, Kerr plunk, wood panelled walls, seventies patterned wallpaper and 70's TV to name a few When the Lights Went Out is worth viewing for the 70s nostalgia alone.
Director Pat Holden takes some queues from some well know horrors and parts of his offering are unavoidably reminiscent of The Amativille Horror, The Exorcist and Poltergeist. Although the closing is unnecessary effects laden, the overall unassuming setting adds to the ominous and uneasy feel, this coupled with the minimal melodic music and lighting create some good tension.
With haunting figures and things going bump in the coal shed and dwelling as the family becomes more convinced their house isn't right, it becomes quite compelling viewing especially for those also familiar with the well documented alleged haunting. The creepy sound design makes the most mundane objects jumpy and menacing as the incidents escalate throughout. Along with the on location feel amongst the expertly recreated period, the everyday UK setting adds to an air of realism.
Part horror, part family drama what's interesting is the haunting events and its effect on the daughter and family and the reaction of the school and local community. It's well filmed and acted, notable are Kate Ashfield , Steven Waddington, Tasha Connor with Craig Parkinson Martin Compston and Andrea Lowe providing some good performances in supporting roles.
With a bit of artistic licence, based on The Black Monk of Pontefract, Holden gives the events context and structure to a story that's well acted amounting to a solid British haunting film.
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