Sunday saw the first instalment of Sky Living’s three-part drama, The Enfield Haunting. Based on a true case which saw the residents of a council house plagued by poltergeist activity between 1977-1979, you’d be forgiven for thinking the show may have some credence.
We’re introduced to a somewhat normal family life; a stressed single mum raising her children, but within just a few minutes, mum walks into the kitchen to find every drawer and cupboard open. Something we’ve all seen before. As more oddities appear around the house, such as deep score marks in the walls, tapping, bumping, the children are blamed, until a heavy chest of drawers moves across a room by itself. Any potential scare moments are flattened by their numbing predictability.
Maurice Grosse is called in, on behalf of the Society of Psychical Research (SPR), but it seems he has his own ghosts to deal with. It transpires that he lost his daughter only a year ago, in a motorbike accident. He suffers recurring dreams of her, and, to really crank up the cliché, her name was Janet. Which happens to be the name of the young girl who seems to be the epicentre of the poltergeist activity.
When Maurice arrives at the house, the local journalists are already there, with some photos of the unlucky family surrounded by curious blurs and apparitions. We have almost everything we need for another regurgitation of the haunted house trope.
Guy Lyon Playfair, a fellow member of the SPR knocks on the door, claiming to have come to help out. He’s actually been sent in to debunk the entire thing as a hoax. He’s a writer, a bit of a celebrity in his circles, and prances about in a wardrobe he may have borrowed from Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen. He’s every bit the ‘creative’ stereotype, pulling out his psychic gizmos and gadgets.
Things continue in the same hum-drum way as before; Janet sees faces, the budgie spontaneously dies, a ghostly hand is clamped over her mouth. Perhaps it was trying to cover her yawn.
Of course, when Guy finds out about the ‘strange coincidences’ between Maurice’s daughter and the paranormally-inflicted young Janet, he sends him away, claiming that he’s too ’emotionally involved’. And so, poor Janet is left alone with a poltergeist who she claims “wants to hurt me”, and a man who doesn’t care about her, and doesn’t believe her either.
They have a live feed video camera set up in Janet’s room, and, predictably, while Guy is away making himself a cuppa, the poltergeist strikes. It twists the curtain into a rope, and strings Janet up by the neck. How lucky that Guy returns to the monitor just in time to run upstairs to save her. Or at least, he tries. He’s rendered a little incapable as the poltergeist flings him against the ceiling. I guess he’s a believer now.
The Enfield Haunting pulls out all the clichés, tropes, and trends of its genre to offer another cookie-cutter drama with nothing new to add. The flat, two-dimensional characters give you no one to care for, no intrigue, no interest at all. After the first episode, I’m rather hoping they all die.
Next week’s ‘teaser’ only promises more of the same. The next two episodes are available on demand, and I’m tempted to download them just to get this over with.