If the leaves are turning, the nights are getting cooler and jack-o-lanterns are making an appearance in your neighborhood, chances are good that Halloween’s on its way. What that means for us at Telly Visions is that it’s time to roll out our list of viewing options (with a British accent, of course) for your spooktastic enjoyment.
Within the category of horror there are several sub-genres. This year I have settled on the paranormal realm for my recommendations – you know, ghosts, poltergeists, possessions, haunted houses, etc. We’ve got a nice little mix of UK-based frights, a bit of something for everyone, as it were. And they’re all ready to thrill you at just the click of a mouse.
If you chose to read further, enter at your own risk…
The Enfield Haunting. Our first offering is a mini-series based on Guy Lyon Playfair’s book, This House Is Haunted, which chronicled the phenomena collectively referred to as ‘The Enfield Poltergeist'. It depicts some of the disturbing and inexplicable events that took place in the North London home of the Hodgson family from August 1977 to 1979. (If this sounds familiar, the 2016 film, The Conjuring 2, concerns this same series of metaphysical incidents.)
The Enfield Haunting stars an impressive cast including Timothy Spall (Mr. Turner ); Matthew Macfayden (Ripper Street); Truly, Madly, Deeply’s Juliet Stevenson and Eleanor Worthington-Cox as young Janet, the Hodgson daughter most affected by the supernatural activity. The series is available to stream on Hulu.
Midwinter of the Spirit. This three-part ITV thriller is based on Phil Rickman's book series about a country vicar and recent widow named Merrily Watkins. The vicar, played by The Bletchley Circle's Anna Maxwell Martin, has just completed her exorcist training and finds herself being called on by local police for assistance with a grisly, ritualistic murder. Little does she know that she and her teenage daughter are both in mortal danger from human and demonic forces.
Midwinter of the Spirit also stars David Threlfall (Shameless), Siobhan Finneran (Downton Abbey) and Game of Thrones’ Kate Dickie. If you enjoy a bit of satanic expulsion, Acorn TV (or Amazon with an Acorn subscription) is the place to find this one.
River. At first glance this popular BBC police procedural is not what most would consider Halloween fare. Nevertheless, the series’ protagonist, DI John River (Stellan Skarsgard) is indeed a man caught between the living and the dead. He interacts with what he calls “manifests” who are primarily victims of crimes he’s trying to solve, as well as a murderer from history who taunts and torments him.
A Netflix Original series, River also features Last Tango in Halifax’s Nicola Walker, Lesley Manville (Cranford) and Eddie Marsan (Ray Donovan). It’s the perfect choice for those who want a bit of haunting without the obligatory jump scares and macabre tone one expects in ghostly stories.
The Secret of Crickley Hall. This mini-series, based on a supernatural novel by British author James Herbert, is your classic haunted house tale. The Caleighs have suffered a family trauma, the disappearance of their son, Cameron. In an attempt to heal, they relocate from London to an old mansion in the North of England called Crickley Hall. Very quickly the family experiences paranormal encounters with former residents and learns about the dark history of this house that served as an orphanage during WWII. They all want to leave except Eve (Doctor Foster’s Suranne Jones) who senses the answer to what happened to her son resides in this place with a deeply troubled past.
The cast also includes Tom Ellis (Miranda), Douglas Henshall (Shetland) and Game of Thrones’ Maisie Williams. Hulu is the only streaming service currently hosting The Secret of Crickley Hall.
Most Haunted. While the earlier referenced Enfield Haunting is based on a true story, some of you may prefer an even more reality-based look into spirits and other apparitions. For those familiar with American shows like Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures, may I introduce you to Most Haunted? While not the first, it is one of the earliest and longest running paranormal investigation programs. Led by host Yvette Fielding, the program travels to various locations, primarily in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, to get to the bottom of purported hauntings.
Though eighteen seasons of Most Haunted have been produced, Netflix currently has only one ten-episode series on offer at this time. The cases include visits to several historic manors, the Royal Court Theatre and a notorious court, jail and place of execution.
So there you have it, a bit of eerie entertainment from a land with stories of hauntings much older than our own. My hope is that everyone can find a spine-tingling experience to their liking. Just don’t blame us if you have a few nightmares after sampling the telly on this list…