THE ENFIELD POLTERGEIST (2023)
Aired On: Apple TV+.
Release Date: 10/27/23
"Experience the chilling true story of the world's most famous poltergeist case through original audio recordings made inside the house as the events unfolded."
Director Jerry Rothwell is channeling Fox Mulder. He wants you to believe. And his latest, The Enfield Poltergeist, is a nonfiction horror series profiling the documented Enfield Poltergeist of 1977. The four-episode Apple TV+ docuseries is full of Halloween treats for believers and skeptics alike but is also ghoulishly slow.
The Enfield poltergeist case is a unique one in the realm of paranormal studies. The Hodgson family of Enfield, London, witnessed a series of unexplained phenomena between 1977 to 1978. During this time, Maurice Grosse, from the Society for Psychical Research, captured over two hundred hours of audio recordings full of screams, bumps, moans, and shouts. Believers of the supernatural point to these recordings as proof of extra-dimensional realms. Others feel that Grosse simply compiled a helluva great costume party mixtape.
Jerry Rothwell, Davis Guggenheim, and the team from Concordia Studio present Grosse’s recordings in a distinctive format. They recreate key events from the haunting with actors in the roles while using Grosse’s original recordings to provide the actual dialogue and soundtrack. The production is top notch. But scary it is not as all the ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggedy beasties and things that go bump in the night politely do so off camera.
Grosse and the event itself remains widely debated – a process that the docuseries imbues. Whereas unexplained events do seemingly occur – the violent throwing of furniture, the levitation of eleven-year-old Janet – so many happen only in the presence of 1970s era audio recordings. Is there an actual haunting? Or did Janet Hodgson see The Exorcist (1973) one too many times?
Rothwell mixes in the reenactments with interviews from the survivors; Janet is still in the land of the living but Grosse has since passed on leaving his son and daughter to cover in his absence. Rothwell skews towards the belief of the supernatural but leaves enough of the four-plus hours open enough to allow for coincidence and even game play. Grosse, however, is presented earnestly as a pre-Akroydian Ghostbuster with a pursuit strengthened by his own beliefs. At one point in the first episode, after hearing the moans and knocks, he journals that there can only be two explanations: one of the girls is Jean Grey from the X-Men, or there is a poltergeist. He never considers that this is a practical joke, or the wind, or solar flares, or magnets. Once the decision (either ESP or ghosts!) is made – both easily and early – all the viewer can do is sit back and be entertained by the spectacle. And Britain’s fashion sense.
But don’t expect an answer.
The Conjuring 2 (2016) was adapted from the Enfield events. The James Wan movie tells the story of heroic power couple Ed and Lorraine Warren and their quest to rid the Hodgson household of the haunt. Mainly a fictional account, the Conjuring sequel scares more than the usual ghost pic and should be in rotation for many an October viewing. For fans who would rather be informed than afraid, The Enfield Poltergeist is entertaining enough, even though there is a frightening amount of dead air.