Earlier in 2015, the Sky Living channel premiered THE ENFIELD HAUNTING, a three-part series based on the 1977 book by Guy Lyon Playfair called 'This House Is Haunted'. The series chronicles the events that took place in an average suburban house where witnesses claim to have experienced "supernatural" phenomenon, including a malevolent poltergeist. The three-part series stars Timothy Spall (who mainstream audiences will remember as Wormtail from the HARRY POTTER films) as Maurice Grosse, an amateur paranomral researcher who becomes involved in the case. The series also stars Matthew Macfayden as author and paranormal researcher Guy Lyon Playfair, Juliet Stevenson as Betty Grosse and Eleanor Worthington-Cox as Janet Hodgson, the young girl at the centre of the strange events that took place in the house.
The series has just been released on digital download and is available through Google Play.
The first episode is the best of the three, as the element of mystery surrounding what's happening carries all the way through to its final moments. Given this is a TV show (not a movie), there's some elements that prevent the episode from going "over-the-top" in terms of impact. While some effort has been made to create a 1970s look and feel, the show feels like it's been made quite cheaply. Many of the effects are created through traditional in-camera techniques with only a few computer-generated visual effects to create the supernatural presence. The focus of the show is on the characters; mainly Timothy Spall and Matthew Macfayden as Grosse and Playfair. Spall's character is coming to terms with the tragic death of his daughter and the case becomes an opportunity for him to attain forgiveness in not preventing the motorcycle accident that claims her life.
After experiencing the malevolent presence firsthand, Macfayden's Playfair takes a more active role in the second episode, as he and Grosse start acting more like a team. The "emergence" of the poltergeist, by way of young Janet (who starts speaking with the entity's voice), provides Grosse with the opportunity to find out who the spirit is and what it wants. Playfair takes the chance to bring more paranormal researchers into the Hodgson's home, but their presence becomes an unwelcome one for the family.
The series starts to falter once the identity of the poltergeist is revealed and more time is spent communicating with it. Despite the distorted, unnatural voice it speaks with, there's nothing especially frightening about what it says and its motivation for its actions are not especially clear.
The final episode resolves the two key threads of the series, as the focus comes back to Maurice Grosse and his involvement with the Hodgson family. Timothy Spall continues to do a nice job as the show's central character, but the pace of the story slows to a crawl as a lot of time is spent examining the psychological state of Maurice and his wife Betty, who feels abandoned by her husband in the wake of her own grief for their daughter's death. Maurice does get an opportunity to deal with the circumstances of his daughter's death, but poor old Betty gets short-changed.
The most troubling aspect of Episode Three is writer Joshua St.Johnston's reliance on young Eleanor to move the story forward as the adults around her seem all consumed by their own problems. The poor kid (along with her sister) is being subjected to all sorts of nasty stuff (mutilation & weird voices to name a couple), but no one really seems to give a toss. In the end, it's Eleanor who works out why the poltergeist is persisting and manages to get Maurice (along with Guy) out of his funk long enough to see an end to her supernatural molestation.
THE ENFIELD HAUNTING is interesting because it is based on a "real" case and the characters in the story are real people. Director Kristoffer Nyholm tries to inject some visual style into proceedings and manages to create some effective sequences throughout the three episodes. The series is much more of a "Haunted House" story than anything else, so anyone looking for gore factor, violence and lots of jump scares will be disappointed by THE ENFIELD HAUNTING. The show's theme is more about the impact that death has on the living and how families touched by tragedy deal with it. The series is definitely worth watching, but it's one that's been made on the cheap. There are some problems with the story, but the quality of the acting outweighs this. Timothy Spall is excellent and Matthew Macfayden provides Playfair with some Upper Middle Class toff that's entirely appropriate. Eleanor Worthington-Cox is also very good and helps sell the reality of the paranormal happenings wit her under-stated performance.