Friday, 6 February 2015

When The Lights Went Out (2012)

I think largely because I was brought up on Hammer horror, I've always been predisposed to low budget horror movies made here in the UK. Recent years have seen a glut of them, including the revival of Hammer studios. Some have been fairly dreadful and some have been pretty good, a lot of them have been average and yet I still find I like these a little more than I perhaps ought to.

When The Lights Went Out (made in 2012 and receiving its premiere on Sky Movies a couple of weeks back - I don't think it troubled the cinemas) is loosely based on a real poltergeist haunting known as 'The Black Monk of Pontefract', said to have occurred in the home of the Pritchard family at 30 East Drive Chequerfield Estate in Pontefract, West Yorkshire in 1974. There, supernatural disturbances by a poltergeist given the nickname 'Fred' terrorised the family including throwing objects around the room, dropping room temperature  and, in one particularly distressing circumstance, dragging the daughter Diane upstairs by her neck. In 1981, Colin Wilson wrote a book about the haunting which gained notoriety in paranormal circles and it is this that one imagines the film is largely based upon. 

Writer and Director Pat Holden nicely evokes the 1974 setting with a strong design recreation of the hairstyles, fashions and gaudy wallpaper. Plus its not every day you see a horror film that features extensive use of the children's game Buckaroo! Equally he captures the dry humour of the north ensuring this is a horror film with laughs; I especially liked the exchange between daughter Sally and her outcast friend who gets picked on for smelling of urine. "Are you incontinent?" "I used to have to wear a nappy" "So did I" "Not when you were 10!" and the use of "Soft arse" as an insult. 

However, he relies a little too heavily on the basic modern horror tropes of sudden jumps which makes for a predictable and somewhat cheesy affair and, though its clearly for plot expediency sake, I did find the quick acceptance of the ghost from the family a little too pat. Still, there's a strong cast on display including Kate Ashfield and Steven Waddington as the parents, renamed the Maynards here, and a promising debut from Tasha Connor as their troubled daughter Sally. Playing friends of the family are the excellent Craig Parkinson and Andrea Lowe and there's also a trio of actors who have previously appeared in Ken Loach movies, Tony Pitts (Looks and Smiles) Gary Lewis (from many of Loach's Scottish films) and Martin Compston (Sweet Sixteen) though it's fair to say that Compston's 70s helmet of hair and bum fluff is perhaps the scariest thing you'll see in the whole movie!

Though flawed in places this is still a mildly successful and entertaining way to pass 80 or so minutes.

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