It’s 1974, and in the heart of Yorkshire the Maynard family have just moved into their dream home. Despite parents Jenny (Kate Ashfield) and Len’s (Steven Waddington) joy, daughter Sally (Tasha Conner) is less enthused at the move, and shows the “difficult teen” card. It’s not long before the family discovers that the house is not such dream, more of a nightmare. The house is inhabited by the spirit of something from the past, something that seems to both protect and harm the Maynard’s, but more than anything else the spirit seems fixated with Sally, but is it her friend, or her enemy.
As the movie begins we are told that When The Lights Went Out is based on a true story, an aspect I was prepared to believe from the offset. As the film progresses however, you cannot help but find area to doubt this. But this is the poetic license of the movie script, to take something very real and spin it on it’s head, to elaborate the story, make it more addictive. Whatever the case may be, regardless of how much of the movie is fact or fiction, it’s very clearly a winning formula.
Speed is the most obvious thing with the film, things have been going for just a few minutes when it all begins kicking off. And this continues through the movies entirety. There are few points in the movie where it loses its momentum, in fact it’s a consistently action packed movie from start to finish, fairly unusual for a British movie.
You cannot help think of movies of the past while watching When The Lights Went Out, The Exorcist and The Amityville Horror certainly seem to have played a heavy influence upon the minds of the scriptwriters. There is an oh so familiar bee scene, and an even more memorable exorcism scene. But this is all by the by, while this is well trod path, it’s also pathway of over 30 years ago, as a result an entirely new audience to enjoy this type of horror.
What is the most appealing aspect of the movie to anyone who remembers the 70’s is the accuracy. From vehicles, wallpaper, furniture, ornaments, fashions, fads, and toys the 70’s is vividly re-created in 2011 (when the film was shot). It is an entirely authentic looking piece, beautifully captured by director Pat Holden.
When The Lights Went Out is a really authentic, old feeling horror tale, something that reminds me very much of the Hammer House Of Horror episode The House That Dripped Blood. It’s completely traditional I its roots, and something that is much missing from the modern horror market. The film has some really good scares, some slightly unexpected twists and turns, and the much-needed false ending to put some extra punch into the final scenes.
The performers are excellent, and includes supporting roles from the delightful Jo Hartley, Martin Compston, Hannah Clifford, Peter Egan, Andrea Lowe, and Craig Parkinson.
If you like your horror to have the retro feel, or you are in much need of something a little different then When The Lights Went Out is the film for you. The movie is in cinemas through the UK from 7th of September.