Directed by: Christopher Nyholm
Starring: Timothy Spall, Juliet Stephenson, Matthew McFadyen, Rosie Cavaliero, Eleanor Worthington-Cox, Fern Deacon
In August 1977, in the North London suburb of Enfield, the Hodgson family find themselves besieged by a poltergeist - especially young Janet, who is tormented by a ghostly figure. Maurice Grosse, a paranormal investigator, is brought in to investigate, as is Guy Playfair, a debonair novelist angling for his next book on the paranormal. Both men will witness a wide range of supernatural occurrences, while Maurice grows attached to Janet, who reminds him of his own daughter, killed in a motorcycle accident the year previously...
The Enfield Haunting is a three part mini-series originally shown on Sky, and is based on a real event, one of the most documented accounts of a haunting ever. The series is based in particular on a book by the real Guy Playfair, "This House is Haunted: The True Story of the Enfield Poltergeist".
The series boasts excellent production values. The time and place are expertly evoked. The costumes, cars, interior decor are all perfectly realised, down to the serving hatches that used to join kitchens to the dining room and the posters of David Soul on the sisters' bedroom wall.
The acting is excellent both from the child actors and adults alike. Eleanor Worthington-Cox plays Janet, the young girlwho is the focus of the haunting, does a great job of portraying a girl being possessed that is totally believable. She's quite mischievous, along with her older sister, and there are periods of complete normality where her sense of humour come through.
Timothy Spall leads the charge amongst the adults. Maurice and his wife, Betty (Juliet Stephenson), are running on empty since the death of their daughter, also called Janet. Maurice is the sort of gentleman who grew up during the Second World War, and has the sort of upper middle class accent you just don't get to hear any more. He's a very reserved character who finds himself being reconnected to his emotions through his interactions with young Janet.
Juliet Stephenson is the seemingly shrewish wife of Maurice. When we first meet her, it seems that she is having an affair in response to her husband's emotional withdrawal, but it turns out to be something different entirely, but at the same time a way for her to cope. She understandably believes that Maurice is using the Hodgsons as a surrogate family.
Matthew McFadyen plays Guy Playfair, a popular novelist who'd written books about his experiences conducting exorcisms in Brazil. At first he seems a bit of an unsympathetic character, exploiting the situation for his own plans to write a book. It also transpires that he's been sent to debunk Maurice's reputation. However when Guy himself is witnesses a paranormal event in the house, he becomes a believer and a more sympathetic character. He retains a more detached attitude however and has a more realistic outlook.
The haunting itself is very well-realised. There are hints that Janet and Margaret are "embellishing" what is happening (the final scene is quite enigmatic in that regard). However the series itself falls on the side of believing in the hauntingand portrays it as a bonafide supernatural event. However it doesn't go too overboard, keeping the whole thing reasonably grounded.
Whether you believe the account or not, The Enfield Haunting is a great story, brilliantly acted and realised.
8 out of 10 (MikeOutWest)