TITLE: When The Lights Went Out
YEAR RELEASED: 2012
DIRECTOR: Pat Holden
CAST: Kate Ashfield, Nicky Bell, Tasher Connor, Martin Compston, Craig Parkinson and Alan Brent
REVIEW BY DAVID SAUNDERSON
When the Lights Went Out is everything that The Spooky Isles is about – a creepy horror film about a real life haunting that makes no apologises for liking a good scare.
This 2012 supernatural horror film directed by Pat Holden is loosely based on the infamous real life Yorkshire poltergeist haunting, known as The Black Monk of Pontefract from the 1970s.
The film’s set in 1974, a time of great upheaval in the United Kingdom. The country is in recession and there are problems with regular electricity blackouts – hence the title of the film. We start the film with the The Maynard Family (changed from Pritchard from the original case), moving into their new house, only to discover that the house already inhabited by a malign presence.
Initially, it is only the teenage daughter who notices the spirit. However, it doesn’t take long for the whole family to be terrorised.
What makes this film is so delicious is the openness of the terror. We aren’t talking little creaks here and there, with a “is it, or isn’t it?” ghostliness. When the poltergeist arrives, it smacks you round the head and throws you down the stairs!
There is an awesome exorcism scene, which pays homage to The Exorcist (1973) as the ghostbusters approach the house not unlike Max Von Sydow in the original film. The priest, played by Gary Lewis, initially didn’t want to be involved because he didn’t have the permission of the church to perform an exorcism. But the family is able to blackmail him, because he’s having a fling with his housekeeper – which is a lovely bit of debauchery that dirties up an already dark story!
When the Lights Went Out is a little slow at the start but once it gets going, it’s a lot of fun. Unlike Hollywood-made films, this British-made horror has got a lot of ridiculous special effects and the filmmakers are clearly going for a realistic portrayal of a family terrorised by a poltergeist haunting (ie. you won’t see any little girls being sucked into their television sets!).
Not surprisingly, the director Pat Holden has said he “embellished the story to make it fit it into a horror movie template”, which is good. I’m often troubled when filmmakers pretend they are following their source material to the letter. Paranormal cases are complicated and while there are sometimes evidence of physical damage, there are very few – in the UK anyway – that include Amityville Horror-type blood dripping down walls etc. The terror involved is usually in the mind, from the constant knocks and disturbances that increase anxiety.
I really want to go to Pontefract Castle – the home of the Black Monk – now that I have seen it in the film. I always think, however, that as much as we love reading and talking about these cases, it must be a terrible thing to live through a poltergeist haunting. Whether it’s paranormal or not, the people involved are in real distress.
30 East Drive and the Black Monk of Pontefract case has risen in the public’s awareness in recent years, mainly because of the promotion of ghost tours/investigations there. Films like When the Lights Went Out are a good way to understand the real life effects of cases such as that on the families involved.