'The Quiet Ones'
When the proud Hammer Films production banner was revived in the UK, it brought some hope that handsome, serious and decidedly British horror films would start slipping out again. ‘The Woman in Black‘ even suggested that was possible. Now we have ‘The Quiet Ones’, and hopefully Christopher Lee never sees it, unless he wants to be reminded how good the ‘Dracula’ sequels he was embarrassed to make actually were.
As the film opens, it briefly appears as though the pieces might fall in place for a British horror worthy of the Hammer title card. With a 1970s setting, a surprisingly talented crop of British actors, and a concept that offers a fairly novel twist on old material, plenty of promise flickers on the screen. Jared Harris stars as a university professor who hires three students (Sam Clafin, Erin Richards and Rory Fleck-Byrne) to help him with an experiment. Professor Coupland is convinced that all supposed hauntings, possessions and other supernatural activity are merely symptoms of a psychological disorder that can be purged from a patient. He finds a particularly damaged girl in an asylum (Olivia Cooke) who’s convinced that she’s haunted by a spirit, so he takes the gal and his students out to an abandoned house in the country to conduct some experiments. Clafin’s character films it all to allow for some vintage found-footage shenanigans, and of course Cooke proves to offer some issues.
Sadly, once the narrative engine is in motion, the movie crashes off the rails. Despite having a simple premise, the script that took three credited writers to complete (four if you count the bizarre “Based on a Screenplay By” credit) unfolds awkwardly, episodically, and in a needlessly confusing manner. Character motivations are impossible to gauge. Subplots and love triangles are introduced then abandoned. The nature of the supernatural entity keeps changing – but not in an unpredictably evolving manner, more in a way that suggests the filmmakers can’t decide what subgenre of horror movie they’re making. Practical effects are spoiled by needless CGI enhancements that would have looked unacceptably cartoonish in the mid-1990s. The found-footage element is introduced and ditched so many times that it seems to have no purpose.
In other words, the film is a mess. The project was apparently in development for many years and feels like it. The movie has so many competing ideas, themes, tones and voices that it often feels like eventual director John Pogue merely shuffled four different drafts of the script together like a deck of cards and then shot scenes at random.
At the very least, the actors all do good work under the circumstances. In particular, Jared Harris’s haggard face and battered voice were made for horror films. Olivia Cooke commits to her ludicrous role so fully that she generates genuine empathy for a character who was barely sketched out on the page. Those two impressive performances make the hokey script sing and remind audiences of what made the original Hammer films so special. They were schlocky productions given dignity by actors, writers, directors and crews capable of more. Unfortunately, this Hammer 2.0 production has only the talented actors, while the rest feels on par with the latest direct-to-VOD travesty designed to separate overly trusting horror fans from their money.
‘The Quiet Ones’ is ultimately a big waste of time. The only meaningful purpose it serves is to remind horror fans that the superior ‘Oculus‘ is still playing in neighboring theaters.