JON KANEKO-JAMES reviews the latest horror from Hammer, The Quiet Ones
TITLE: The Quiet Ones
YEAR RELEASED: 2014
DIRECTOR: John Pogue
CAST: Jared Harris, Sam Claflin, Olivia Cooke, Erin Richards, Rory Fleck-Byrne
Here’s the first thing: when you watch The Quiet Ones, keep your eyes closed until the end of the credits. Don’t ask why, just do it. You’ll thank me.
This is the sixth film by the revived Hammer Studios, brought back to life with a flick of the switch from Dutch producer John De Mol, run by Liberty Global’s Simon Oakes and Marc Schipper. Hammer Boss Simon Oakes expressed his hopes that this would have been the kind of film that Hammer would have been releasing if they’d have continued through the last twenty to thirty years.
The film itself, set in the 1970s, tells the story of a young cameraman who signs on with the charismatic and driven Professor Coupland (Jared Harris) to prove that a young woman’s mental illness lies in the paranormal resources of her subconscious mind. The attitudes of another age are portrayed without having to play ‘yesteryear bingo’ where we dutifully watch hackneyed set pieces to remind us that people in the 70s were more likely to hold beliefs that endorsed racism, classism and sexism, which also really won me on side.
And there’s a lot of atmosphere in The Quiet Ones. the filmmakers have chosen the locations beautifully: the action starts in an Oxford Semi, then moves to a strange, echoing house in the middle of nowhere. In fact, without being intrusive, I’d say that the house itself is a star of the show. It doesn’t brood, it isn’t like The Haunting of Hill House masterpiece, but it has something else. The Quiet One’s big house in the country feels empty and half finished. The film works hard to make it feel as if you’re living in the 1970s without resorting to flares and flock wallpaper, and even the equipment the investigators use is convincingly period.
The plot even has a very nice degree of creepiness. The idea of a narcissistic, borderline dangerous psychiatrist performing unethical experiments on a fanatically loyal – very disturbed – young girl is quite scary, and the way they build up the sense of isolation worked really well for me. And some of the things they do to poor ‘Jane’, played by Olivia Cooke move from uneasy to horrific. Not only that, but from very early on it feels as if there are no safe zones, you feel as if the characters are never entirely safe once the experiment is underway.
That said… there are serious flaws in The Quiet Ones. The biggest is that pretty much all the scares in the film are cheap jump scares: big loud noises and things jumping out in your face. The most annoying thing is that there’s so much potential. If someone explained the idea behind the film in a pub it would scare the heck out of you, but the execution is nothing other than a massive bucket full of jump scares that leaves you fatigued and not particularly affected by the movie.
There’s nothing worse than dreading a movie scene, not for the tension built up in the scene but because you don’t have the stamina for another ten jump scares.For me, the irritation of the jump scares made me notice other things: one of the female characters has little identity beyond ‘has sex’, which irked me because 1970s settings are far less charming 1970s writing. Of the three other male characters the Professor is very charismatic and well played, Brian the cameraman is a pleasure to watch (when the actor Sam Caiflin can keep his accent straight) but character number three (whose name I forget) might as well be called ‘Stock Alpha Male#34625’.
Add to that the fact that the plot does a handbreak turn about two thirds the way in, that the producers are so desperate to hit the Woman In Black demographic that they produce an incredibly safe and chaste movie, and that The Quiet Ones has just enough potential to make the lack of delivery frustrating, and you get a movie that I’d advise you to go to see… but not for a wholehearted scare.