When The Lights Went Out (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner14/09/2012

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 86 mins

Atmospheric British horror enlivened by some impressive production design and a terrific central performance from newcomer Tasha Connor, though it's slightly let down by a finale that relies too heavily on dodgy special effects.

What's it all about?
Directed by Pat Holden, When The Lights Went Out is based on a true story and set in 1974 Yorkshire. Tasha Connor stars as 17 year old Sally, who moves into an empty council house with her parents Jenny (Kate Ashfield) and Len (Steven Waddington) and discovers something spooky going on in her bedroom. Her parents are initially sceptical, but when poltergeist activity spreads throughout the house, they become convinced that the place is haunted and attempt to come up with a solution that won't require them to move out and end up back on the bottom of the council house list.

The Good
Newcomer Tasha Connor is excellent as Sally, a typical moody teenager to the point where you can't really blame her parents for initially thinking that loud noises from upstairs might just be Sally slamming doors in a rage. Waddington is equally good as Len (the scene where he is terrified by an unseen presence in the coal cellar is brilliantly acted and genuinely chilling) and there's strong support from Ashfield, Craig Parkinson (as Len's best friend), Martin Compston (as Sally's sympathetic teacher) and Gary Lewis as a reluctant priest who's blackmailed into performing an exorcism.

Holden creates an effectively creepy atmosphere throughout, heightened by some impressive sound design work and some top notch 1970s production design that deploys every shade of brown and orange you can imagine and then adds a few more for good measure. To that end, there are a number of enjoyably retro spooky moments, most notably the poltergeist deciding to have a go with classic 70s toys such as Buckaroo (already pretty scary) and a Slinky.

The Bad
The script does a good job of addressing the usual “Why don't they just move out?” issues, though the dialogue is occasionally unintentionally laughable and there's also a sense that there are a few scenes missing, particularly in regard to Gary Lewis' character. In addition, the film is slightly let down by a finale that relies too heavily on dodgy digital effects and fails to realise that cheap-looking CGI nonsense is much less scary than shadows and darkness.

Worth seeing?
Despite its disappointing finale, When The Lights Went Out is an effectively creepy British horror with strong performances and some superb production design work that ensures you'll never look at a Slinky quite the same way again. Worth seeing.

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Content updated: 19/10/2017 19:23

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