The Enfield Haunting (2015)
Directed by: Kristoffer Nyholm
Written by: Guy Lyon Playfair, Joshua St Johnston
Starring: Eleanor Worthington-Cox, Fern Deacon, Juliet Stevenson, Matthew Macfayden, Rosie Cavaliero, Timothy Spall
Based on a true story. August 1977, Maurice Gross (Timothy Spall) is brought in to investigate a potential poltergeist haunting in a home in Enfield, London.
The real case of the haunting at Enfield is one of Britain’s most famous ghost cases and it is still debated as to whether it was a real occurrence or a hoax. The television series tackles this to an extent, but categorically comes down on the side of it being a true event, and not invented by the family residing in the house. Based upon the book by Guy Plainview, one of the researchers that attended the house (played by Matthew Macfadyen), it takes the account and events of the haunting as fact. This does give the series more of a heightened fictional feel, as if the source material is taken as a jumping off point to slightly embellish for purposes of entertainment, and if you are looking for a more rigorous account of the debate surrounding the haunting you might be left disappointed. However, the series does predominantly succeed in being an entertaining piece of drama and an interesting story.
Though it is entitled The Enfield Haunting, the real central story is of Maurice Gross, played by the ever watchable and dependable Timothy Spall, a man haunted by a recent tragedy. Gross and his wife Betty (Juliette Stevenson) are still suffering from the death of their daughter in a motorbike accident. When Maurice is charged with investigating the events at Enfield he ends up finding a surrogate family, the Hodgson family, single mother Peggy (Rosie Cavaliero) and her son (Elliot Kerley) and two daughters (Eleanor Worthington-Cox, Fern Deacon). One of the daughters, Janet who is most plagued by the haunting, becomes very much a surrogate daughter in Maurice’s grief, even as far as having the same name as his deceased daughter. It is Maurice’s story that we follow and it is through Timothy Spall that we are drawn in to the drama and we are ultimately given the greatest emotional arc.
Being a ghost story you do expect a certain amount of scares which the first episode handles very well. It is filled with mounting suspense and has a good few scares through its forty five minute running time, including some creepy background action that helps to heighten the tension. This unfortunately doesn’t carry through to the other two episodes which is a bit of a disappointment considering the strong horror start, especially at times when the poltergeist finds its voice which is more comical than menacing. That’s not to say the other two episodes are a write off, it’s just that they become something different. Instead they focus more on the human drama of the piece, the tension between the family members of both the Grosse family and the Hodgson family, and delve closer into Maurice’s grief. Luckily the cast are all strong so that the drama is involving and entertaining. The ending to the series is a little too quick and succinctly wrapped up leading it to feel a little rushed.
The Enfield Haunting is an entertaining short series with a strongly scary first episode that then slightly disappointingly fades more into family drama. The cast all make it worth a watch. The story will be told again in the upcoming The Conjuring 2 but it is doubtful whether the film will have the same subtle emotional touch as this series.