Director: John Pogue
Cast: Jared Harris, Sam Claflin, Erin Richards, Rory Fleck-Byrne, Olivia Cooke
RunTime: 1 hr 37 mins
Rating: NC-16 (Horror and Some Nudity)
Released By: Cathay-Keris Films
Official Website: http://thequietonesmovie.com
Opening Day: 8 May 2014
Synopsis: A university student (Sam Claflin of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire) and some classmates are recruited to carry out a private experiment -- to create a poltergeist. Their subject: an alluring, but dangerously disturbed young woman (Olivia Cooke of Bates Motel). Their quest: to explore the dark energy that her damaged psyche might manifest. As the experiment unravels along with their sanity, the rogue PHD students are soon confronted with a terrifying reality: they have triggered an unspeakable force with a power beyond all explanation.
Following their modest success with the Daniel Radcliffe-starrer ‘The Woman in Black’, the revival of the legendary British horror studio Hammer continues with this 70s-set supernatural thriller ‘The Quiet Ones’, which sees a Oxford professor of abnormal psychology try to push the limits of science in order to chase the demons away from inside a mentally disturbed young girl. Ok, the said professor will probably take umbrage at how we’ve described his technique - given his deep-seated belief that supernatural manifestations are but a physical expression of mental energy – but hey so does the movie try to have it both ways.
Veteran screenwriter John Pogue’s sophomore directorial outing places at its heart the struggle between science and the supernatural within a certain Professor Joseph Coupland’s (Jared Harris) supposedly groundbreaking experiment. Awarded custody of the teenager named Jane Harper (Olivia Cooke), he has her under lock and key in a room in a London flat. When the university establishment gets cold feet over his pet project, Coupland relocates the girl and his assistants - Krissi (Erin Richards) and Harry (Rory Fleck-Byrne) – to a sprawling country estate to continue his work.
Tagging along is their cameraman Brian (Sam Claflin), from whose p.o.v. we observe the going-ons at least half of the time. The effect is very much akin to a found footage movie, complete with jittery camera movements that may induce some degree of motion sickness; but otherwise the found-footage verite largely works to the film’s advantage, creating a feeling of dread as we follow our characters down darkened hallways and into half-lit rooms. Brian is also the most religious among the lot, and the one to confirm that there may be some hint of demonic possession involved in Jane’s unnatural behaviour.
Largely though, Harris’ casting ensures that Professor Coupland remains a compelling figure even with his academic hocus-pocus, and it is to Harris’ credit that his character turns even more deliciously sinister throughout the film. It is refreshing to see that Pogue, who co-wrote the screenplay with Craig Rosenberg, Oren Moverman and Tom de Ville, doesn’t simply turn the characters into scared cardboard types when Jane unleashes her evil; rather, there is an arch brio to Coupland that invigorates the proceedings, though it does stop short at casting him as the villain despite some truly ethically questionable methods.
Nonetheless, the narrative does sag a little in the middle even as Jane’s psychosis escalates, and a third-act introduction of a cult group whose symbol of devil worship is burnt into Jane’s skin fizzles out before it literally “catches fire”. Pogue tries hard to compensate with his bag of horror tropes – strobe lights, locked rooms and a creepy looking doll – but the one gimmick he relies on too repeatedly is to raise the sound effects to ear-shattering levels, coupled with shock cuts that ultimately wear out their welcome as soon as the frame disappears.
What he does succeed in doing is to evoke a retro feel for the horrors from of old, paying close attention to recreating a 70s setting complete with mutton-chop sideburns and choice tunes from T. Rex and Slade. Still, that’s unlikely to be enough to convince modern-day audiences that it deserves their attention; were it released back in the era, we’d be sure it’ll be a pretty well-made piece of horror, but we suspect that its mere recycling of past stylistic clichés is unlikely to do it any favours. Indeed, when it doesn’t even bother to explain its title except in an unexplained throwaway line, that’s a sure sign ‘The Quiet Ones’ isn’t quite worth its weight in jump scares and loud noises.
(A retro-styled horror that relies too conveniently on shock cuts and jump scares to scare its audience)
Review by Gabriel Chong