The consensus is clear: The Quiet Ones is a disappointment, but it isn't as bad as people would have you believe. Loosely based on the Phillip Experiment, a study from the early '70s that attempted to prove the human mind can conjure spirits through visualization, the movie wears its kitschy "Inspired By True Events" tagline on its haunted sleeve.
The movie's kooky Professor Coupland, played by an equally hammy Jared Harris, lives up to retro studio Hammer's legacy. He embodies the best of the Vincent Prices of the world as he abducts his cursed patient, Jane (Olivia Cooke), a woman able to manifest a malevolent force called Evey, after Oxford pulls his paranormal funding. When Jane's body materializes this ghostly presence in an abandoned mansion, loud knocks bang the walls, doors mysteriously open, electromagnetic equipment buzzes, and burns appear on the team of researchers Coupland has enlisted for help. There are also Satanic cults. Still, everyone believes that Jane's predicament is based in science.
Basically, it's standard and predictable, especially after high profile releases like Insidious and The Conjuring successfully tackled astral projection and possession with old-school flair updated for a modern audience. Oh, and The Quiet Ones tries to blend found-footage into the mix because... that's what was popular in 2007? But this movie isn't trying to be as scary as those titles or reinvent the handheld schtick. More than anything, it's a throwback to haunted house and creature feature flicks of the past, in large part due to British studio Hammer's enduring legacy reinvigorated by Let Me In and The Woman In Black.
Whereas The Conjuring dealt with mother losing her wits in the early 1970s with complete seriousness, The Quiet Ones relies on an Instagram-worthy filter (definitely 1977 or Nashville) and hormones. Krissi Dalton, played by Erin Richards, simultaneously sleeps with Professor Coupland and his protege, the moppy-haired Harry Abrams, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson lookalike Rory Fleck-Byrne. She changes her groovy outfits scene-to-scene, until she runs away from the experiment and ends up at a bath back on campus, only to be trapped naked in non-lethal boiling water and her never ending cigarette.
Brian, played by the up-and-coming Hunger Games star, Sam Claflin, is also a slave to his desires. He's the only guy not really associated with Coupland's experiment. He's just there record the questionable science and supernatural hypotheses around him, but eventually succumbs to his gaze, developing feelings for Jane - who's not a girl, not yet a woman. Forget the fact that she's able to summon complete and utter evil. Everyone likes someone with a few issues. Coupland is in the same boat. He's blinded by the idea that these symptoms are scientific to the point that he continues to play with the Devil.
These are characters that smoke constantly, sleep together, take breaks from their research to play croquet, and then take a trip to the library because the Dewey Decimal System is their only source for what's really going on. As such, The Quiet Ones is all over the place. The switches between found-footage and traditional haunted house mayhem - walking into rooms without resetting the fuse box, putting your hands in places where they don't belong, and having a casual seance - is jarring. However, it all goes back to Coupland questioning Brian at the beginning of the film. Is Brian religious, agnostic, or does he just not know? The answer - like most of the characters in this movie - is that he's clueless, but the one thing they all have going for them is being intrigued to the point of deserving their fate.
Even though The Quiet Ones only deserves a recommendation for lovers of gaudy horror, the movie really does showcase Olivia Cooke as being someone capable of something more than Bates Motel. She embodies a girl that's lost - trying to feel a sense of happiness in a world that has never been quite kind to her. Like Professor Coupland and Brian, it's not hard to fall for her charms even if it'll put you in an early grave or the psych ward.