- on Friday, 25 April 2014 17:06
- by Frank Wilkins
We all want Hammer Films to succeed, right? After all, doesn’t everyone like to root for the underdog? The UK-based film production company is a re-launch of Hammer Film Productions, which had its heyday from the mid-1950s to the 1970s when its “Gothic Horror” films dominated the cinematic landscape. Granted, the company’s two biggest successes, 2010’s Let Me In, and 2012’s The Woman in Black grossed a cumulative $150+ million rendering “underdog” a borderline offensive moniker, however with its latest, The Quiet Ones, Hammer has done itself no favors in recapturing its former glory.
The film’s inspiration comes from the heyday of paranormal research, the 1970s, when real scientists began poking into such disturbing human experiences as psychokinesis, clairvoyance, and hauntings in makeshift, underfunded scientific laboratories. Screenwriter Tom de Ville was grabbed by one particular 1972 case known as the “Phillip Experiment” in which scientists were looking at the hypothesis that poltergeists might be created as a manifestation of extreme emotional energy rather than as visitors from the spiritual realm.
De ville tells his own version of that experiment and sets his story in the same time period while director John Pogue bathes it in the analog incandescence of a rich, saturated 16mm glow that gives the stock a genuinely creepy, period feel.
We meet Jane Harper (Olivia Cooke from TV’s Bates Motel) a troubled young woman under willful examination by Oxford professor Joseph Coupland (Jared Harris), who is convinced he can purge the devilish phantom that torments Jane and thereby cure her mental illness. “Cure one patient, you cure all of mankind,” he naively declares.
Shut down and de-funded by skittish University administrators, Professor Coupland sets out on his own by enlisting the services of three students: lovebirds Krissi (Erin Richards) and Harry (Rory Fleck-Byrne); and naive cameraman Brian McNeil (Sam Claflin) whose handheld footage becomes not only Coupland’s meticulous documentation, but Pogue’s shaky-cam film-within-a-film aesthetic. Yes, another found-footage thriller to pound the overused technique further into the ground. I’ve always wondered who is shooting the footage that shows the character shooting the hand-held footage in the film.
What initially appears to be a refreshingly unique idea that pits objective scientific researchers against dark forces of the occult, soon devolves into more of everything we’ve seen before; loud noises, jump scares, hands on shoulders that cause loud noises, and an obnoxiously raucous soundtrack that this time shrieks Slade’s Cum on Feel the Noize… played over and over.
Jane is kept in almost total lock-down within a dungeon-like room as the scientists hover over whirring instruments and seesawing dials in the next room that record very scientifically important things like fluctuations in temperature and changes in electro-magnetic fields. Cooke does an adequate job with her meager material keeping us wondering just how much of her condition is self-induced and how much may be the work of some external supernatural force.
Then we notice the story’s sinister focus begin to slowly shift onto the scientists. Reciprocally, our sympathies now fall with Jane as cracks begin to open in the scientist’s relationships between one another and as the strength of their commitment to the experiment begins to come under question. Could this change of perspective be a brilliant twist that offers to elevate the story above that of all the other thrillers out there?
Alas, no. Instead Pogue gets back to Jane and her twisting, writhing contortions, and the confusing appearance of burned sigils on her skin that can’t even be explained away via the pages of dusty, leather-bound tomes buried within the university library stacks. Ho-hum.
The Quiet Ones certainly won’t kill Hammer Films. In fact, with what is most certainly a minuscule budget, they’ll likely even make a few bucks. Even the bad horror films usually do. But unfortunately, our patient wait for the sustained hit streak that returns the company to its former gruesome glory of The Mummy, The Wolf Man, and Frankenstein will have to continue.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and terror, sexual content, thematic material, language, and smoking throughout.
Runtime: 98 mins
Director: John Pogue
Writer: Tom de Ville
Cast: Jared Harris, Sam Claflin, Olivia Cooke
Tagline: Something unspeakable is happening to Jane Harper..
Memorable Movie Quote: "Cure one patient, you cure all of mankind"
Distributor: Hammer Films
Official Site: http://www.thequietonesmovie.com/
Release Date: April 25, 2014
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: No details available
Synopsis: Inspired by true events, The Quiet Ones tells the story of an unorthodox professor (Harris) who uses controversial methods and leads his best students off the grid to take part in a dangerous experiment: to create a poltergeist. Based on the theory that paranormal activity is caused by human negative energy, the rogue scientists perform a series of tests on a young patient, pushing her to the edge of sanity. As frightening occurrences begin to take place with shocking and gruesome consequences, the group quickly realizes they have triggered a force more terrifying and evil than they ever could have imagined.
No detials available.