Flicks based around a poltergeist tend to be hard for me to swallow. There is no doubt in my mind that ghosts do not exist, therefore I do not fear them. Yes, every once in a blue moon I will get a good scare from a spiritual horror, but I also get that from movies about a clown with deadlights beaming from it’s eyes.
When the Lights Went Out is written and directed by Pat Holden, who has vocalized his families own experiences with the afterlife. Holden used inspiration from what is known as a true haunting that took place in the 1970’s in Yorkshire. The story is known as The Pontefract Poltergeist, Holden‘s own extended family’s experience.
Although the flick was a bit slow moving, everything from the setting to the dialogue to the actors told a solid story that felt like it was filmed in the 70’s. Period pieces are difficult to do, especially ones where most people can remember what it was like to be alive during the era. I give Holden props for that accomplishment.
A lot of the conversations between the characters were boring and meaningless to the plot. Other problems for me were scenes like the father (Steven Waddington) getting so scared of ‘something’ in the basement that when he finally get out of the room he bitch-slaps his daughter Sally (Tasha Connor). That didn’t flow for me and seemed like it was left in for shock value – that failed.
The movie took a nonchalant approach. Most people I would think would have some sort of reaction having a friends mother ask not to have someone inside the residence due to a spirit. In When the Lights When Out it was merely accepted by Sally to not have her peer in her home and she didn’t really question the motives behind it, or behind anything. The subdued reaction of the mother (Kate Ashfield) after seeing an apparition was less than thrilling. A let down when you think of Ashfield‘s performance in Shaun of the Dead and know how much more she is capable of. Not a standout performance.
There’s not one actor who stood out in this film as they could all be considered part of the background. Bland and out of date. They all seemed to be following instructions and not participating in the creation of their characters. A major let down as I feel this feature had potential to be truly dark and disturbing.
A scene towards the end of the movie where a séance is held had the opportunity to really put a scare into the audience. It ended up a dull and rusty attempt for more shock value. There was no specific time in When the Lights Went Out that I felt unease, suspense or panic. From beginning to end it felt like the movie was a rip-off of The Amityville Horror, The Exorcist, and Poltergeist.
Some people will view this movie and see it as artistic or genuine, to me it a film to be found on The Woman’s Network late at night. Not terrible, definitely watchable, but don’t expect it to make your top ten ghost stories list.