Review: When The Lights Went Out / Cert: 15 / Director: Pat Holden / Screenplay: Pat Holden / Starring: Steven Waddington, Kate Ashfield, Tasha Connor, Gary Lewis / Release Date: January 7th 2013
Set in the early '70s, at the height of the power cuts, this British ghost story is based on a real-life haunting that took place in Pontefract.
Moving into their dream home, the Maynard family, Len (Waddington), Jenny (Ashfield) and daughter Sally (Connor), soon have more to worry about than the colour of the kitchen walls (“Avocado? Don't you mean green?”) when a malevolent spirit seems to want them out. At first Len tries to profit from the happenings, charging nosey locals a pound to tour the house, and it seems Sally has a bond with the entity. But when things begin to get more violent, they call in paranormal investigator Hilary Barnes (former Emmerdale star Tony Pitts) and even blackmail local priest Father Clifton (Lewis) into performing an exorcism – anything rather than move out and go back to the bottom of that council house waiting list.
Writer/director Holden apparently has connections to the original story (his aunt was friends with the real-life family) and does a marvellous job of recreating the look and feel of the 1970s, right down to the grim social club which is the mainstay of Pontefract nightlife. You can just sense him breathing a sigh of nostalgia at the Noel Edmonds-fronted episode of Top of the Pops seen on TV at one point.
Newcomers Tasha Connor and Hannah Clifford (as Lucy, Sally's only school friend) are brilliant, and outshine the majority of the adult cast. Which is not to say the latter are bad: Waddington and Ashfield are credible as a typical '70s couple, and the ever-reliable Jo Hartley (Inbred) is great as Lucy's over-protective mother. It's a shame, then, that the film wastes no time in getting to the hauntings when it could have built up more atmosphere and characterisation. The scares are handled really well early on, especially in a scene in which Jenny is decorating, and in the simple use of classic kid's toys – a Slinky creeping down the stairs and Buckeroo shedding its load. But as the film progresses the use of CGI gets in the way. By the end it is going all out for easy scares rather than taking a more subtle approach. The climactic exorcism scene comes across more comical than scary, but it's entertaining enough and should go down well with Paranormal Activity fans.