The Quiet Ones (2014) / Horror-Thriller
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and terror, sexual content, thematic material, language, and smoking throughout
Running Time: 98 min.
Cast: Jared Harris, Sam Claflin, Olivia Cooke, Erin Richards, Rory Fleck-Byrne
Director: John Pogue
Screenplay: Craig Rosenberg, Oren Moverman, John Pogue (revised from an original script by Tom DeVille)
Review published April 26, 2014
Jared Harris (Pompeii, Lincoln) is the lead in his ensemble horror piece, playing Oxford physics professor Joseph Coupland, who has put together a team of graduate students and a cameraman (Claflin, Catching Fire) in order to study and then draw out a powerful entity named Evey Dwyer, whom he believes isn't really darkly possessing an unwell young orphan named Jane Harper (Cooke, "Bates Motel"), so much as it is a deeply rooted psychological manifestation of her negative energy. Coupland thinks he has a foolproof plan that can not only save Jane, but subsequently all such afflicted people, but Jane's parasitic entity, whether real or imagined, proves to be more difficult to deal with than even he could have anticipated, putting them all in mortal jeopardy.
The Quiet Ones is a revamped Hammer Films release, the British movie house who put out many classic chillers in the third quarter of the 20th Century of similar ilk. It's supposedly based on a true story, inspired by an experiment that took place in Toronto in 1972 in an effort to prove that the appearance of the supernatural comes from projections that emanate from the mind of humans (as if that's easier to believe?), though all of the events and characters in the film are completely fictional.
Much of the film concerns the chain-smoking Coupland's seemingly bizarre methods in dealing with his subjects, including keeping them drugged and locked away where they can't do any harm to themselves or others, though they always seem to still find a way. Plus, he seems to have a disturbing interest in Jane above and beyond just her treatment, though the extent to which he has taken things is only hinted at. Coupland's insistence that what they're witnessing isn't real is what really strains the credibility of the film, as he quickly dismisses such an extraordinary event as what appears to be an arm of goop that vomits out of Jane's mouth and retracts as "teleplasm", as if that's an uneventful and explainable thing in parapsychology.
I'm uncertain just why the film is called The Quiet Ones, outside of a murky allusion made late in the film. It's certainly not a quiet film, as most of the jump-scares involve noises that are meant to make the audience lose control of their bowels through horrendously loud thumps and shrieks that emanate from theater speakers at near eardrum-shattering decibels, as the cast navigates through darkened rooms with surreal imagery painted all around.
Despite its adherence to cheap theatrics for its "scary" moments, The Quiet Ones does start off with some promise, with a good sense of its era (though its repetitive use of Slade's "Cum on Feel the Noize" begins to wear out its welcome), and some decent actors thrown in the mix. It also incorporates the 'found footage' nature of modern horror but with a 1970s twist that makes it visually appealing, and rather creepier in texture, rather than ugly and digital. While it feels perhaps too familiar in its topic for genre fanatics to rave about, for an old-fashioned chiller, it's not half bad for most of the first hour. It doesn't always make sense, particularly as to why Coupland can't understand from the get-go that what he's dealing with isn't psychological, but it does have a modicum of intrigue that carries it.
Cooke is perhaps the best thing in the film, and one can see, given her big eyes and pale skin, that it's just a matter of time before Tim Burton casts her in something down the road. Balancing out the quality thesping is Sam Claflin as Sam, the young man hired on to capture as much footage as he can of the experiment, who ends up developing feelings of his own for the troubled Jane, though he doesn't want to indulge, despite her advances, until she is cured.
However, there's always that last pesky half hour to get through known as the climax, and that's when John Pogue's (Quarantine 2) film falls completely apart. What might have been a workable example of old-fashioned horror becomes yet another example of modern-day schlock that seeks to unnerve audiences through a cavalcade of jack-in-the-box moments whereby unpleasant images and shrill sounds jump out at you at predetermined intervals. While some members of the audience will likely look at the screen through their hands, it's more a result of the the noise and imagery instead of fearing for the characters on the screen, so one can't rightfully say the palpitations are earned any more than they would be in any other movie.
Truth is, we never come to care about these characters, or the clichéd storyline, we just can't bear to see freak-out moments of ugliness. Unless you're just looking for that flick to get your date to hold you tighter and hide her face against you whenever it looks like something particularly nasty is about to jump out, The Quiet Ones is not much more than a dreadfully routine horror flick with credible actors and a decent sense of period to keep it from completely freefalling into the bad movie abyss during the unsatisfying and lackluster finale.
©2014 Vince Leo