Review: When The Lights Went Out

Written by: Misty Fraser

Scattered among the looming lights of the big cinemas showing the latest blockbusters and red carpet premieres in Leicester Square lies the Prince Charles cinema which regularly shows a selection of old or otherwise undiscovered gems.

And it’s here where this screening of small-scale British horror, When The Lights Went Out, was presented.

British horror When The Lights Went Out

This horror film about possession whose timing coincides with the big Sam Raimi produced movie The Possession, which is hard to miss when it’s plastered over every TV channel, radio station or poster. So, unless you have agoraphobia chances are you’ve caught wind of it.

And yet this small gem far surpasses The Possession – even with its many millions of dollars spent on CGI artists producing rooms full of ‘death moths’ before falling asleep with their face in their coffee and questioning their own self worth.

The acting is better, the story and script far stronger, and it conveys a subtle, sinister atmosphere throughout without making a song and dance over it like The Possession does. ‘Hey, look at our death moths. Look at them there, all in the room flipping and flapping about in your face. See them shine. We did that. Aren’t we a big, clever film studio?’  No.

When The Lights Went Out is based on a true story of a family with a poltergeist in their house. More notably it’s done without a handheld camera vibrating all over the place for once.

Before the screening, the people behind the film attempted to connect with two competition winners, via Skype, who would be watching the film at the same time as us but inside the very house the film is about. A nice touch that sadly failed due to technology, but still, it was a refreshing idea.

Set in the 1970s the attention to detail from costume, to hair, to house decor was impressive, and the main child actress, Hannah Clifford, certainly has a promising future. By far one of the best younger actresses I have seen.

It is by no means a scary film, but that is not a criticism. The story and the way it is told is interesting enough to keep a horror fan (or otherwise) watching to see what unfolds. You don’t need cheap jumps to see how far your popcorn can be thrown. The Olympics is over now.

A main fault with the film that let it down was not digging into the background of the poltergeist a little more. We got a brief glimpse of who it was believed to be, but there was a fascinating story there that deserved more than a quick nod.

Another error was perhaps the way in which the family accept the fact they are being haunted a little too easily without being cynical. Almost as if it was the gas man popping round to read the metre again: ‘Oh, ok, if you must, come on in.’

British horror When The Lights Went Out

The poltergeist even interferes during family dinners, which is a major social etiquette no-no where I’m from.

However, there are some nice interwoven storylines and some of the interaction between characters is very good. Impressive seeing as most horrors have a tendency to be lazy with this. ‘Emotional connection to the characters? Don’t be ridiculous; just get the ghosts up in their grill.’

Without giving the story away, there is a small twist but don’t expect to fall out of your chair in shock. At the end, the film does rely on a bit of CGI which almost spoils it a tad from what was a nice, simple, old-fashioned British horror. We know there’s a ghost giving you a bit of jip, you don’t have to pimp it up with the use of computer-generated mist.

It’s a shame that other films in this field have big bucks to throw on marketing because it means smaller films like this get lost. When The Lights Went Out may not be the film of the century, but if you’ve spent money sitting through a frankly unnecessary amount of moths in The Possession give When The Lights Went Out a go.

Best case scenario you’ll find it a slightly flawed but relatively well-executed and charming little tale. Or, at the worst, you’ll be overcome with a desire to punch someone after starring at 70s psychedelic wallpaper for 120 minutes.

Author: Misty Fraser

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