When the Lights Went Out Movie Review
It's 1974 when Jenny and Len (Ashfield and Waddington) move into a new home.
They're delighted with the increase in space and the lovely Yorkshire setting, but their 17-year-old daughter Sally (Connor) is annoyed that her life has been disrupted. And the rolling blackouts don't help either, especially since the darkness seems to reveal something malevolent lurking in the shadows.
Meanwhile, Sally befriends both a lonely neighbour (Clifford) and the spirit of a young girl who's trying to get them to leave. Which of course causes her teacher (Compston) to worry about her home life. And as things get worse, Jenny and Len turn to a ghostbuster (Pitts) and a local priest (Lewis) for help.
The complexity of the story adds to the realism, as does the inventive photography and editing, which cleverly combines the brown 1970s hues with creepy lights and shadows. Most of the story is told from Sally's perspective, and Connor infuses the film with a potent teen sulk. Her mood swings and unrealistic expectations contrast nicely with the supernatural eeriness.
Cleverly, writer-director Holden reveals the ghostly goings on through insinuation, using tiny glimpses and almost imperceptible noises to let us know that something's not quite right.
The problem is that a movie can't stay in this mode. It has to crank up the terror, and as the ghostly infestation becomes more visual, it becomes less scary. Loud noises, corny visual effects, grisly flashbacks and demonic smoke all begin to feel rather ridiculous, leaving us time to think about the plot's clunkier elements (such as the oddly sudden way the priest is coerced into performing an illicit exorcism). But despite some unintended laughs, there are several genuinely unnerving scenes in this film. And the cast is excellent at making sure we sometimes feel as scared as their characters.