Tuesday, 9 September 2014

The Quiet Ones

Horror films are a mixed bag, aren’t they? Probably more so than any other genre: you’ve got the old classics, the occasional new gem, the crappy ones that always seem to come with 3D glasses, and the ones that are so bad they’re good. But which category does The Quiet Ones, Lionsgate’s and Hammer Films’ 2014 fright-fest, fall into?

The film, set in the 1970s, tells the story of Oxford University professor Joseph Coupland (Jared Harris), who’s on a mission to disprove the existence of the supernatural and rid the world of mental illness. He believes paranormal manifestations and possessions are a type of sickness that can be cured, if only more research and observation could be carried out.

Well, what better way to observe mental illness than to lock away one such “sick” individual in an old house, blast her with Slade’s “Cum on Feel the Noize” at all hours of the day and night, and peer at her through a hatch? Enter Jane Harper (Olivia Cooke), a young woman straight out of the “scary horror movie girl” factory (straight black hair, white dress, big eyes) who’s being haunted by a doll called Evey that only she can see. Paranormal phenomena abound around Jane – lights flickering, doors slamming, the usual stuff – and Professor Coupland wants to find out what’s causing it.

The professor enlists the help of students Krissi and Harry (Erin Richards and Rory Fleck-Byrne, whose acting ability hovers somewhere around the “Doctor Who background character” mark) and camera operator Brian McNeil (played by Hunger Games veteran Sam Claflin who, along with Cooke, does basically all of the heavy lifting in this movie). Together, they set about documenting Professor Coupland’s experiments, all of which are suspiciously séance-y for someone who doesn’t believe in the supernatural. The experiments make Jane increasingly stressed and miserable, even leading her to self-harm. Meanwhile Brian, who’s developed feelings for her, takes it upon himself to solve the mystery behind Jane’s apparent “possession”, freeing her from it – and Coupland – once and for all.

It could have been an interesting premise in the right hands, but in this case the filmmakers have relied too much on jump scares and not enough on solid writing. This is the sort of horror movie that gets in, shouts “boo!” and immediately moves onto something else, never letting anything build or become particularly unsettling.

That’s not to say the film never tries to do anything legitimately interesting or creepy, but when it does it feels half-baked. The story is coherent and fleshed out, and the film does a decent job of explaining why all the spooky ghost stuff is happening, but it just isn’t all that interesting or surprising. And the one interesting visual choice in the film – incorporating “found footage” from Brian’s cine-camera – doesn’t work at all. It’s every bit as HD and shiny-looking as the rest of the movie, just with a cheap film grain effect slapped on, and it’s used too sporadically to really sell the illusion.

Overall, this just isn’t a very good film – and, unfortunately, it isn’t quite bad enough to warrant watching for its comedy value. The film’s jump scares might provide some entertainment if you turn off the lights and crank up the volume but lazy writing, dodgy editing, and phoned-in performances mean The Quiet Ones is doomed to quietly gather dust in DVD bargain bins the world over.

I’m giving it a 2/5.


Mike Lee

The Quiet Ones at CeX

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