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Customer Review

19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Pontefract Poltergeist., 9 Feb. 2013
This review is from: When The Lights Went Out [DVD] (DVD)
When the Lights Went Out is written and directed by Pat Holden. It stars Steven Waddington, Kate Ashfield, Natasha Connor, Craig Parkinson, Jo Hartley and Martin Compston. Film is based on alleged real life events that were recorded in Pontefract, England, in 1974. After the Pritchard family moved into their new house on the Chequerfield Estate, poltergeist activity reached such a level it has been called the most violent poltergeist haunting ever witnessed in Europe.

Director Holden, who made the criminally under valued Awaydays, helms his picture with genuine love and thought for the topic. Being related to the Pritchard family he had wanted to make the film for some time, it's a noble effort even though it never achieves all that it can.

There are two main problems that will ensure the film will stay rooted on the bottom shelves of DVD stockists and collectors. Problem one is that it is uncomfortable in mixing comedy with drama, something that practically kills a key scene in the last quarter. It's useful to understand that these Yorkshire folk are made of tough stuff, ready to offer a quip in the face of adversity, but it has to be pitched right and here it negates much of the pent-up terror.

The other key issue is that it's so stunning in its period design (this really deserves the highest praise for the makers), anyone from the 1970s is guaranteed to be spending much of the film pointing out things and reminiscing. I know I was! Garish wallpaper designs, toys like Slinky and Buckaroo, rum and pep and Babycham in the smoky pubs, The Sweet singing Little Willy and a hairy Noel Edmonds on Top of the Pops, these are just some of the things to make film fans who were reared in the 70s smile during this particular horror film!

As a tale it's creepy enough, the cold backdrop of a Yorkshire council estate suits the story no end, and in spite of a bad misstep when Holden uses CGI in the finale, the shocks and unease moments are nicely handled. While the human interest factor always remains high and there's a bit of thought within the writing to off set the normal question of "why don't they just move house?".

It's also well performed by the cast, with youngster Connor really shining bright, and with Holden keeping things brisk the picture never gets bogged down with pointless scene fillers. Is it scary? Away from the flares, wallpaper and hair styles that is! Well no it isn't really, it's more an effective ghost yarn than anything else. So needless to say, the bloodlust gore crowd or those expecting a battle between religion and demon, need not apply here. 6.5/10
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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 9 May 2013 20:46:05 BDT
On the contrary, I'd say the use of CGI is abolsutely necessary, otherwise this would be just another fake scare along the lines of the billions plugging up the market ever since the wretchedly fake 'Sixth Sense' started this fashion over a decade ago. Thank God for cgi. How else you going to fully realise a ghost? Ghosts are not people, they are impressions, spirits, manifestations of what used to be alive and cannot or will not dissipate into the next plane of being, so we need them not to appear like people. Actors wearing contacts and covered in baking flour will never suffice.

In reply to an earlier post on 10 May 2013 12:36:50 BDT
Spike Owen says:
Hi Scott

I disagree, more could have been garnered here by not revealing some cheap CGI, a "what you don't see is what scares you the most" approach would have worked far better.

Regards as always

Spike

In reply to an earlier post on 11 May 2013 00:34:07 BDT
Last edited by the author on 11 May 2013 00:40:32 BDT
Hiya, Spike, I'm afraid I like to see my horror threat, it smackss too much of blatant cheating when the actual being/entity/creature etc. isn't delivered in the last half, which should be obligatory in all horror films but the few rarified flicks that are so strong in making you believe there is a threat you can't see, they don't need it (i.e 'Blair Witch Project', 'The 1959 'Haunting). But these films are the exception.

For me it often makes the difference in tipping a potential horror right off its axis and into the cop-out fakery that now pollutes the horror world worse than any offload of CGI ever did. The list of the accused is long and grows yearly-'Session 9', 'Dead End', 'Paranormal Activity', 'Sinister', 'Last Exorcism' and God knows how many more.

The "what you don't see scares you most" has been the harbinger of doom as far as horror's concerned these days. Seeing nothing adds up to nothing there and I can't see it any other way ;give me those 'House On Haunted Hill'remake/'Poltergeist' entities any day. I mean, anyone can pan a camera down an unlit corridor for ages to create "atmopshere" and have extras bang pans on doors, but it all adds up to Jack squat if there's nothing there and we know there isn't because the unlit corridor is empty and there are extras banging pans on the wall to "scare" us with noise.

Having said this, any wonky CGI is as bad as flour-covered actors pretending to be dead and is equally unwanted, but I'd still like to see this to judge for myself, but I'm so glad it's not another "not really there" fake like 'Silent House' and more.

Take care, dude.

Posted on 23 May 2013 14:05:09 BDT
Agree with your review. I had looked forward to this and it's a nice little film, but it just wasn't scary at all really. What's really scary is the fact that the mum refused to move out under any circumstances! Odd woman.

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Aug 2013 09:28:26 BDT
Last edited by the author on 27 Aug 2013 09:31:13 BDT
Savitaa says:
Well, the research group reckoned their son Philip who was not included at all in the story for this film faked it all but maybe it was the mum :-) We enjoyed this film, particularly as we were teenagers at this time but my partner, being German, could have done with subtitles and for some strange reason there are none. That is very odd for a modern film - maybe some ghost stole them.

Posted on 20 Sep 2013 13:36:45 BDT
Well reviewed, Spike Owen!

In reply to an earlier post on 21 Sep 2013 19:40:50 BDT
Spike Owen says:
Many thanks!!

Regards

Spike
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Location: Birmingham, England.

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