The Quiet Ones
2014, 98mins, 15
Director: John Pogue
Writer (s): John Pogue, Craig Rosenberg, Oren Moverman
Cast includes: Sam Claflin, Jared Harris, Olivia Cooke, Erin Richards, Rory-Fleck Byrne
UK Release Date: 11th April 2014
The reinvention of Hammer Studios hasn’t really worked thus far. 2010’s “Let Me In” was a functional but inferior remake of a stronger Swedish picture and 2012’s “The Woman in Black” whilst lucrative, was stricken by anaemia. However these misfits represent the best Hammer has been able to conjure post rejuvenation, and that fact doesn’t change with “The Quiet Ones”. Taking traditional Hammer tropes (haunted houses and sinister intellectuals) and combining them with found-footage shooting feels more desperate than inspired. In the wake of last summer’s “The Conjuring” (which dealt in a similarly jolty aesthetic) “The Quiet Ones” comes off as terribly flat. The casting of Jared Harris proves amusing, but the rest of the enterprise stutters with alarming regularity.
Hired by Professor Joseph Coupland (Jared Harris) to help document a medical experiment; Brian (Sam Claflin) is surprised when it appears the subject is mentally unstable Jane (a lank-haired Olivia Cooke), a young woman crippled with fear and uncontrollable abilities. Coupland is convinced that Jane’s powers can be scientifically explained and thusly cured, using loyal PHD students (Erin Richards and Rory Fleck-Byrne) and assorted technologies to try and unlock the cause of her misfortune. Despite their best efforts, Jane continues ti exhibit strange and destructive supernatural tendencies, which eventually threaten not just the operation but also the lives of those involved.
Approaching a Hammer picture centred on a vast echoic hub of ghostly mischief elicits a certain set of expectations, and they’re pretty frickin’ modest. Pogue at least seems aware of what’s anticipated, beefing up the soundtrack to an incredible volume and keeping the boo moments primed at a swift clip. So regular are these attempted scares that a few can’t help but land, especially during the establishing quarter. Still, the batting average dips irrevocably and the style of the frights quickly descends into tedium; Pogue abusing his sound capabilities like a child trapped overnight in a chocolate factory. He indulges every whim to shock the audience through shrieks, speedily dampening the product, rendering each subsequent supernatural fart less memorable than the last. By the time the first act is over the method has been tortured to death, yet “The Quiet Ones” continues to pummel the ears with its unoriginal blend of thumping and whirring. The cinematography and editing aren't any more encouraging. The blend of Super 8 with upmarket third person perspective worked to destabilise audiences watching “The Conjuring”, lending it an unpredictable roller-coaster aura. Unfortunately despite identical conceptual technique, Pogue’s direction lacks the barmy vibrancy of the aforementioned blockbuster. The cuts are fast and initially sync with the disorienting sounds, but they eventually become tiresome, and his repetitious set-pieces lack imagination or truly disturbing artistry.
Jared Harris sneers his way through the movie gamely, quietly constructing villainy as opposed to advertising it immediately. It’s a nice touch that at least lends “The Quiet Ones” some narrative suspense, Harris getting into the sinister spirit of things confidently when required. Claflin (fresh off “Catching Fire”) is a wet non-presence. We’re supposed to feel for his shy and conflicted character, experiencing the horrors through his naïve camera, but the actor isn't emotive enough to engage. He’s interchangeable with any number of handsome, mediocre young yahoos; much like “The Quiet Ones” is interchangeable with any number of slick, mediocre horror outings. The other college students are equally photogenic, but have even less in the way of screen magnetism.
“The Woman in Black” for all its faults did boast a rich and appreciatively gothic production design; an evident consideration for the way it looked. Little of that has been translated into “The Quiet Ones”, which despite a superficial competence doesn't have a style to call its own. The film has been yanked from the prints of cinema history, dabbling haphazardly with ideas and shots perfected elsewhere. It’s a boring movie to endure, trekking a mundane story and characters across a hollow albeit polished surface. Haunted house enthusiasts and lovers of the occult might be considering giving “The Quiet Ones” a chance, but I guarantee anyone with even post-virginal grounding in this sort of material will find the process trite and unrewarding.
A Review by Daniel Kelly, 2014