Right, SKY Living exclusive, and much like Gabriel Byrne’s Quirke, it’s a TV trilogy. But this time, it’s 3 episodes that are about 45 minutes each…Put them together and you have 135 minute film, roughly. It’s based on true events (Whether we believe they happened or not), with characters who are and were real people, and it was quite a significant event in its day.
So what’s the story? If you have seen films such as the Amityville Horror, The Conjuring and even The Exorcist, chances are you’ll know the skeleton before you even sit down to watch it. For those who haven’t sat down to watch these films or read these stories to know what they’re about, lets sum it up like this; A house is haunted, the family is scared, and some nice men with troubled back stories come to try and free them and the house from whatever evil is causing the scares and disturbances. I’m not including the movie Poltergeist in this list because Poltergeist was also a funny movie at the same time…this isn’t a particularly funny story, but it does have some humanity to it.
One thing I really like about The Enfield Haunting is its presentation within context. It is seen is such a way that only those who were involved could say that what happened was real, while their physical proof through photos, videos and even some of the strange markings on the walls, could all be explained, even by untrained eyes (for instance, the photo of Janet levitating might have happened, as far as those who are present are concerned. But to 3rd parties, it just looks like a young girl jumping off her bed and pulling a face). By choosing to remain surprisingly neutral, there’s a certain degree of respect to everyone, including those involved. Because, obviously, their story isn’t watertight.
Acting-wise and character-wise, I thought there was plenty of development, interest and quality, but perhaps not enough to make me like the characters in the same way someone would enjoy Marlon Brando and Peter Dinklage and wonder what would happen if they had a dinner together. Matthew Macfadyen looks and sounds like an engiish Dylan Moran in his role as Guy Lyon Playfair. Eleanor Worthington-Cox (who plays Janet Hodgson, the girl at the centre of all of the activities) is 1 of the best child actors I’ve seen since Jodelle Ferland, and she did a fantastic job as an energetic, curious, and at times rather rude little girl. While some could say she’s quite typical of kids from North London, I would say that her role is quite refreshing from either sweet, innocent kids or the Children Of The Corn archetypes that are found in most other horror movies. Timothy Spall is excellent as Maurice Grosse and this is possibly the only leading role that I’ll ever find of him (He mostly works as a supporting actor). There is a great tragedy and sadness to his character, and his intentions are understandable, even if they’re not the best or most ethical of choices (He’s a man who lost his daughter, also named Janet, and feels that this demon-possessed girl might give him an opportunity to communicate with his daughter). Does the ‘ghost’ have a form? Yes, and he looks a lot like Brad Dourif. He looks less like a ghost and more like that creepy old person that your parents would tell you to stay away from the house of…like Helena Bonham Cater in Big Fish.
How does The Enfield Haunting hold up in terms of horror? All I can say is “If you’ve watched plenty of horror beforehand, this will be a rather predictable experience”. The jump scares happen when you know they’ll be happening, and yes, they still make you jump despite this. It’s not the most creative kind of horror, but it takes some of what has worked before and goes with it.
The music is fine, a bit unremarkable, and the end credits of the final episode seemed very out of place with the tone of the show itself (Young Americans by David Bowie).
In terms of set design, costumes and location, The Enfield Haunting is very well presented, and aspects of its presentation did remind me of my late grandparents’ house, so they did something right.
Would I recommend The Enfield Haunting? If you’re curious about the real life events, then I would say it’s probably a good first step into looking at it before expanding your knowledge. If you’re an enthusiast about it, you’ll be comparing it to what actually happened. If you like horror movies, you might get very little out of it, as it carries out a lot of cliches and doesn’t provide much in terms of new or original ways to scare you. If you’re partial to Horror but not an enthusiast, you’ll probably see it as a pretty good horror story, enough to create that sinking feeling in your stomach, but not enough to keep you awake at night. You’ll jump, then you’ll laugh a bit, and then you’ll move on. To me, it was good. Not fantastic, life-changing or legendary. But an alright way to spend an evening.