THE QUIET ONES
**1/2 (out of 5)
April 25, 2014
Jared Harris as PROFESSOR JOSEPH COUPLAND
Sam Clafin as BRIAN MCNEIL
Erin Richards as KRISSI DALTON
Rory Fleck-Byrne as HARRY ABRAMS
Olivia Cooke as JANE HARPER
Directed by: John Pogue
BY KEVIN CARR
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I wanted to like “The Quiet Ones.” I really did. And it’s a real shame it’s not a better film because it had so much going for it.
First, it’s produced by the resurrected Hammer brand from the UK. Fans of the horror genre will recognize Hammer as the Universal Pictures of the 50s, 60s and 70s in Europe. They were responsible for the slate of monster movies with Dracula, Frankenstein, the Mummy and various incarnations of werewolves. I have a lot of love for Hammer horror, and it was a triumph to see the brand brought back several years ago for releases like “Let Me In” and “The Woman in Black.”
Along with the nostalgia factor of the brand, “The Quiet Ones” had the nostalgia factor of the 70s going for it as well. Like last year’s massive hit “The Conjuring,” “The Quiet Ones” takes place in the 70s with people researching ghosts and demons.
In fact, the film does a great job emulating the 1970s, not just in set and costume design, but also lighting and color correction. In fact, you could believe that the footage was shot in the 70s with how much care is put into the look of the movie.
Unfortunately, as cool as this movie looks and as nice of a start as it gets, the writing just isn’t up to snuff to make this a good film.
The story follows a group of researchers from Oxford who are trying to prove that ghosts and demons are not supernatural. Instead, they hypothesize they are real phenomena resulting from mental illness. The subject they are studying, a troubled young woman named Jane Harper (Olivia Cooke), seems very close to manifesting her own demons in a scientifically quantifiable way. However, some of the researchers begin to wonder if she is not, in fact, possessed.
The set-up is good, if not overused. (This was actually a similar theme in last year’s lackluster “The Apparition.”) The film includes some eerie atmospheric moments and creepy elements. I wouldn’t necessarily call it a scary movie because, like the recent film “Oculus,” it’s more about the presentation than actually causing your audience to scream.
The film also tries something a bit unique with the found footage format. Rather than shooting the entire thing on hand-held cameras, there’s simply lots of footage taken from the point of view of the student hired to chronicle the event. Not only does this present the footage as more professionally shot film stock (since the kid is, in fact, trying to make it look good), but it gives plenty of breaks from that format, with the found footage element only accounting for a small portion of the film.
The problem with “The Quiet Ones” is that for all the set-up and atmosphere, the story completely unravels in the final act. I didn’t have a problem with where the story went from a supernatural standpoint, but rather from a character standpoint. The back-end of the script is poorly written and sometimes makes little sense. To add insult to injury, the director seems to fall back on painful found footage cliches near the end to make up for the lack of strong character polish (which seems to be the biggest identifiable problem with found footage in general, after all).
Perhaps if James Wan’s “The Conjuring” hadn’t set the bar so high, or if Mike Flanagan’s “Oculus” hadn’t come out literally two weeks before this one, of if Lionsgate actually decided to release a horror movie in October to capitalize on the fun of Halloween, this movie might have fared better with me. Sadly, it was left to hang out and dry in the last weekend of spring before the summer movie season kicks off and wipes it from moviegoers’ minds forever.