When The Lights Went Out

When The Lights Went Out


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Despite the fact that the scariest thing about this Yorkshire-brewed ghost story are the 70s fashions (avocado kitchen and rum and pep, anyone?), there is something quite charming about the creakiness of it all.

Based, we are told, on the "true" story of a family who moved into their new council house in 1974 only to find there was a poltergeist in residence, the film is far more enjoyable as a snapshot of life in the Seventies than as a horror movie. Lights going out, in 1974, were not an unusual occurence. I'm sure I'm not alone in remembering, aged three or four, the thrill of having bedtime stories by candlelight as strikes struck out the electric. And it is those with a certain nostalgia for the period who will most enjoy Pat Holden's film.

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Sally Maynard (Tasha Connor, excellent in her first but I'd wager, not her last, film role) is a typical teenager of the Seventies, moving on to an unremarkable council housing estate of the time with her dad Len (Steven Waddington) and mum Jenny (Kate Ashfield). Everything is the epitome of normal... except that when the lights go out in Sally's house, it's nothing to do with a power cut. Prior to the darkness, her lamp swings wildly and things - Buckaroo, a slinky spring and even the landing clock - seem to take on a life of their own.

Soon, it seems that maybe young Sally isn't just making it up for attention, as her parents also fall foul of the spook and the scene is set for the family who, in tough Yorkshire fashion are not prepapred to move, to try to get to the bottom of the mystery and their unwelcome guest.

Holden may not have created a creep fest but some of the scenes before the CGI kills the scariness are quite unsettling, and he knows how to put humour to good use at exactly the right moments - making the film as enjoyable for its portrayal of the family's dynamics and Sally's friendship with Lucy (Hannah Clifford, also great), who "smells of waz", as for its ghost story. The banality of the setting, the outrageousness of Martin Compston's hairdo and moustache in his supporting role as Sally's teacher and the matter-of-fact approach to the haunting by the family, all add to the film's appeal. And while horror fans expecting gore and outrage may leave disappointed, those who like a decent ghost yarn and have a soft-spot for flares are in for a guilty pleasure.

Reviewed on: 14 Sep 2012
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A family move into a haunted council house.
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