A Touch of Cloth, Amanda Lawrence, Betty Grosse, Eleanor Worthington Cox, Fear, Fern Deacon, Ghosts, Horror, Janet Hodgson, Juliet Stevenson, Margaret Hodgson, Maurice Grosse, Mini-series, Poltergeists, Television, The Enfield Haunting, Timothy Spall, TV
The first episode of this mini-series was a fantastic way to start, as it set the tone perfectly whilst keeping details sparse. The episode was eventful without giving too much away, which is the ideal way to capture the audience’s attention whilst also leaving them begging for more. This episode once again started strongly, although I didn’t feel quite as scared as I did the first time around. The pacing was slower in this episode, because more time was spent spelling out character backstories, particularly Maurice’s (Timothy Spall), and there was also a small injection of comedy to make things feel a bit less bleak. I didn’t particularly enjoy learning about the Maurice’s past, because I don’t feel much for the character, but that being said, the episode was still very tight and well executed.
The episode began with a strange scene, in which Maurice cut off part of his wife’s thigh, only for her to tell him that it was fine, and that she was already dead. I liked the fact that the writers began the episode by trying to unsettle their audience, just as they did in the first episode, because it’s an intelligent way to put us all on edge and leave us susceptible to future scares. This scene was the proper introduction of Maurice’s wife, Betty (Juliet Stevenson); she’s there to make you feel more for Maurice, because together they’re grieving and the writers are able to convey some of Maurice’s motivations through their scenes together, but he’s having to neglect her in order to care for Janet (Eleanor Worthington Cox), which makes her more of a nag than a likeable character. Because we’re all routing for Janet, Betty ends up being a complacent background figure in this episode, rather than a significant part of the story.
Nevertheless, Betty was still involved in some of the more enjoyable scenes in this episode, and I thought that her reaction to the poltergeist calling her things like ‘a sour old bitch’ was hilarious – even though she seemed to think that Janet was the one saying the words. It’s good to get an outside perspective, because in reality those on the outside looking in would be very sceptical, so Betty is a necessary character on that front, but she’s not an overly compelling addition to the series.
I enjoyed the way that this episode explored the idea of the Hodgson’s story being dismissed by the public and by the paranormal community because it gave the episode a clear theme, and it meant that we saw more of what the reaction to the real life case must’ve been. It was also interesting to see Grosse’s suspicion of the medium (Amanda Lawrence), because this paralleled the way that everyone else was looking at him, yet he seemed oblivious to that fact. The way that this episode focused on how the public and the paranormal community would perceive the family and their haunting gave the episode a clear direction, but it also took some of the fear away from proceedings, because the story had to have a bit more dialogue, which actually took away from the tension. I think that there was a lot of potential for some entertaining and scary jump scares to be thrown into the mix, particularly whilst the experts were around, but sadly they were lacking, so the episode was a lot less creepy than its predecessor.
The medium was initially really funny, because she seemed like a fake and was a bit over the top, but that changed quite quickly. She was probably the most frightening aspect of the episode, because the way that she expressed herself was extremely distressing and made me very uncomfortable. She was rigid and tense, making it seem as though she was really being internally attacked, and she had a real hatred in her eyes as she addressed her audience. (However, the way she said ‘old man’ reminded me of “A Touch of Cloth”, which lessened my fear quite a bit).
I thought it was interesting that the children began to treat the poltergeist with less fear, making fun of the situation and accepting it as best they could, because I often wonder how a family could cope with this kind of paranormal experience without losing their minds. It seems like a good way to do this would be to embrace it as much as possible; after all, it isn’t going to go away if it’s getting what it wants. The fact that the family did this also meant that ‘Joe’ had to become more aggressive, because he wasn’t being taken seriously, which propelled the story forward by giving him a voice and upping the stakes, making everything feel more dangerous and fragile.
I liked the way that Eleanor Worthington Cox handled the scenes in which her character was channelling the poltergeist, because her delivery was as believable as you can expect a child’s portrayal of a possession to be, but once she’d said something horrible she looked relatively nonchalant with a tinge of embarrassment, which was both funny and endearing. Cox gave the character a playful and relaxed demeanour that was utterly loveable, which made you sympathise a lot with her, and I think she looks like she could become a really decent actress.
The voice that Joe found in this episode wasn’t actually that scary, all things considered – although it would be in the real world. It wasn’t quite as menacing as it could’ve been, because often what was being said was slightly over the top, and I think that the voice itself could’ve done with being slightly deeper. However, it was nice to have the poltergeist feel more like a character on the show, rather than something invisible throwing marbles around.
The ending of the episode was a bit of a let-down for me, because I felt like the tension had been building to something significant, but it ended up petering out, leaving me far too comfortable. I wasn’t really surprised that the poltergeist was able to channel itself through another person, so when it was revealed that it could do so this didn’t feel like a significant bombshell on which to end the episode. I would’ve preferred if Margaret (Fern Deacon) had turned on Janet as the poltergeist took over her voice, because that would’ve been a far more exciting way to injure Janet, and leave us all desperate to watch episode three.
Despite some issues, this episode of “The Enfield Haunting” was pretty good, and I definitely enjoyed it until the last couple of minutes. It wasn’t as good as the first episode, partly because it wasn’t as scary, and also because the atmosphere that that episode had built was lost when ‘Joe’ got his voice. Nevertheless, it’s always hard to live up to the start of a series, because in the first episode everything feels new and unknown, as you don’t quite know what’s lurking behind each corner. Although episode two wasn’t as frightening or well-crafted as its predecessor, I’m still excited to see how the story concludes, and I’m hoping for something truly frightening to happen before the end.