At Oxford University, back in the ’70s, Professor Coupland (Jared Harris) is conducting an abnormal psych experiment to prove that the supernatural doesn’t exist. Coupland believes that possession is actually mental illness and his goal with this particular experiment is to allow that illness to manifest in order to draw it out of his test subject.
Essentially he’s acting as a scientific exorcist. Think of it as his way of having his cake and eating it too.
Bringing along a group of researchers that includes his student/cameraman Brian McNeil (Sam Claflin) and two assistants, Kristina Dalton (Erin Richards) and Harry Abrams (Rory Fleck-Byrne), Coupland sets up shop in an isolated house, where he’ll attempt to cure the disturbed Jane Harper (Olivia Cooke) – a depressed woman who’s channeled all her negative energy into a spirit she calls “Evey”.
In 2008, Hammer Films (which produced many horror films starring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing during the Golden Age of British horror) was dusting themselves off and making a comeback. The results so far have been hit or miss. The Woman in Black was a pleasant surprise for me, while Let Me In – the remake of the excellent Swedish film Let the Right One In – was garbage.
I didn’t have much for expectations with their next film, The Quiet Ones. As little marketing was put behind it, you wonder if Lionsgate felt the same way. That’s not to say this movie will suck. Oculus had little push behind it and received rather favorable reviews, me included.
However, while Oculus – in all its imperfect yet highly entertaining glory – was a nice little mind-twister that was well-directed and acted, The Quiet Ones is a nice looking film that borrows a bit too much from other much better horror films, and is completely burdened by jump scare after jump scare. If you’ve done your homework, you know my thoughts on the jump scare. They’re the poop joke of horror films. Why be creative in developing an unnerving tension within your viewer when you can just have a cat jump out at them, phone suddenly ring or a loud “BANG!!” or “SLAM!!” sound effect that gets them to freak out? They’re cheap thrills and nothing more, designed only to manufacture fright instead of genuinely letting it build inside you.
I don’t quite get why they’d go the cheap route here for two reasons. First, one of the writers, Oren Moverman, was the writer/director of two great films over the past five years – The Messenger and Rampart. Certainly, those two films are more dramatic, character driven pieces and you’re playing on a whole new playground with the horror genre, yet you’d still think a man with the talent he’s already shown could’ve added something a bit more intelligent than just a cheap, loud sound effect. Secondly, this film has some solid direction from John Pogue going for it. Like the much superior film The Conjuring, The Quiet Ones has a nice, vintage ’70s look and feel to it (shot by Matyas Erdely), with Slade’s 1973 original version of “Come on Feel the Noize” blasting in the background of Jane’s room. Pogue also knows how to set up scenes where the tension slowly builds up. The problem is those great buildups lead to those stupid jump scares. The setups are nice, but the results are lackluster.
Where this film also shines are two great performances from Sam Claflin (Finnick Odair from The Hunger Games series) and Olivia Cooke (Emma Decody from A&E’s Bates Motel) as the experiment’s cameraman and test subject, respectively. They share a sympathetic, and sometimes seductive, relationship with each other that works more often than not. Though, I couldn’t help but think that this Brian fellow would be much better off had he have seen any horror film that features pale, dark haired young women in long, flowing white gowns.
They’re not to be trifled with, man!
After years of showing up in dependable supporting character performances, it was nice to see Jared Harris (son of the late Richard Harris) get an opportunity in a lead role, although he sometimes ventures into over-the-top British professor type theatrics with his delivery. Then again, since he’s a man trying to play God, maybe there’s a method to his over-the-top madness?
The Quiet Ones will come and go and possibly not leave an impression with most viewers. It’s shot very well, features some fine acting, and there are some genuinely tense buildups, but the buildups lead to nowhere. I don’t fault this film for ripping off themes from various other horror films as I do for wrapping the film up with an ending that seems ludicrous, rehashed and throwaway, even for this type of film. Overall, it’s not a horrible movie and compared to the horror junk that pollutes the month of January, this film makes out like a Sixth Sense bandit.
I give The Quiet Ones a C (★★½).
Review source: http://silverscreenfanatic.com/2014/04/26/the-quiet-ones/