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When the Lights Went Out


Stars: Kate Ashfield, Steven Waddington, Tasha Connor, Gary Lewis, Martin Compston, Craig Parkinson, Andrea Lowe, Peter Egan, Hester Evans, Jo Hartley

Director: Pat Holden

I must confess to not knowing much about the 'most violent haunting in European history', but this is a seemingly low-budget account of what happened to the Maynard family of Yorkshire in 1974, and especially their 13-year-old daughter, when they moved to a new house.

Although the film remains remarkably un-scary until its final scenes, inanimate objects very soon begin to move of their own accord at the Maynards' home, especially in Sally's (Connor) bedroom. It seems surprising that she isn't believed for some time in the face of the evidence, as lamps sway, cold air permeates the house, and grandfather clocks come crashing down the stairs.

But, as things become more violent local papers become interested, and the local priest (Lewis) is refused permission to perform an exorcism. Even a spiritualist and his assistant admit that not only is the playful poltergeist too strong for them, but that there is a second, more malevolent presence in the house.

Despite technically proficient film-making, the director fails to make our spines tingle at all this, and the actors, too, struggle to convey the terror the family must have experienced. The usually reliable Ashfield, for example, gives one of her least convincing performances, asking her haunted, battered and half-strangled daughter at the end if she's all right as if she were suffering a headache.

David Quinlan

UK 2010. UK Distributor: Revolver. Colour by deluxe.
82 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 13 Sep 2012