The Quiet Ones: Another Solid Showing from Hammer
The Quiet Ones, out April 25th, is the latest release from Hammer, the same studio that gave us The Woman in Black and Let Me In. With The Quiet Ones, director John Pogue takes familiar elements of the horror genre and weaves them into an interesting tale of academic hubris and the supernatural. I really liked this film. Despite the stars being college age, there was a maturity to the tone and no pandering to the teen tropes that diminish so many horror flicks these days. Plus, the jumps and starts were satisfying jolts.
The basis of The Quiet Ones is the desire of Professor Joseph Coupland to prove that ghosts are really human subconscious and a manifestation of negative energy. It is his lifelong work. When he meets Jane Harper, Coupland has finally found the subject he believes will finally prove his hypothesis. The Coupland character has a bit of a Victor Frankenstein in him. He believes that if he can cure one person he can cure humankind of what ails us and is driven to extremes by that belief.
Jane Harper seems to be the perfect subject for Professor Coupland and his team. When the experiment loses its funding through the university, Coupland decides to go it alone without Oxford’s support. They move the operation to a house in the country and set up the EMF equipment, recorders, heart monitors, medical supplies, and one-man camera crew. Brian, the camera guy, develops a personal relationship with Jane. You won’t want to miss how this relationship ultimately affects him.
The rest of the story unfolds through the lens of this one-man camera team and your “typical” movie viewpoints. Having a camera internal to the film adds to the scare tactics. It is extremely jarring when the camera is mysteriously moved or thrown around by unseen forces. The director uses quite a few startling moments that have little to do with the actual experiment. Instead of these moments desensitizing you to jumps, I felt that they actually added to the level of audience tension. By the end, The Quiet Ones becomes a more complex tale than your average ghost or possession film.
The acting was steady across the board. Olivia Cooke plays Jane Harper, a troubled young woman that Jared Harris’ Professor Coupland seeks to cure. Cooke does well in her portrayal of an internally, and sometimes externally, tortured young woman. Harris, as Joseph Coupland, walks a fine line between scholarly obsession and personal arrogance. The supporting cast of students, played by Ben Calfin, Erin Richards, and Rory Fleck-Byrne, working with the professor provide tension and a connection to the place and time for the viewer through their mostly reasonable reactions to the situation.
The setting is England in the early seventies. At first, I saw the visual clues to time and setting as a distraction. I was mostly pulled out of the moment by Kissi Dalton’s wardrobe, the woman on the research team, since the guys on the team had costuming that was more universal. The use of Slade’s 1973 “Cum on Feel the Noise” is what really anchored me to time and place.
Personally, I could do without the “inspired by a true story” or “actual events” tag on horror flicks. Regardless of the inspiration or adaptation, the movies are still works of fiction that don’t spark me to go research any real events that this film might be based upon. I believe that tag comes in when the film desires to use found footage approach to the movies and the studio feels it lends some credibility. It doesn’t.
Overall, I felt The Quiet Ones was a strong production. I’ve been impressed with the movies Hammer is creating. It makes me happy that a studio is not relying on overwhelming gore, torture, or other cheap thrills in their horror films. If you feel the same, go see The Quiet Ones.