Director: John Pogue
Screenplay: Craig Rosenberg, John Pogue & Tom De Ville
Starring: Jared Harris, Sam Claflin, Erin Richards, Rory Flec-Byrne, Olivia Cooke
Running Time: 98 mins
BBFC Classification: 15
Inspired by the true events of 1972’s ‘Philip Experiment’, which took place in Toronto, Canada, rather than during 1974 in Oxfordshire, England, The Quiet Ones is a quietly creepy throwback to films such as The Haunting and The Legend of Hell House where academics try to understand the supernatural through scientific experimentation, but come a cropper when it turns out that the super-nature in question doesn’t want to be analysed or categorised and strikes back with extreme prejudice.
Following on from their recently made modern horrors, including The Woman in Black, The Resident and Wake Wood, the recently reformed Hammer Films have again turned to horror of a more subtle nature to keep punters trembling in their seats.
Professor Coupland (played well by Jared Harris; son of Richard) has assembled a small team of Oxford University students together to help him conduct a long-term experiment on orphan Jane Harper (Olivia Cooke) who’s been in and out of care homes and hospitals since her parents abandoned her some years before. Coupland believes that Jane’s strange visions and behaviour are due to nothing more than excessive negative mental energy, energy which gives her a certain amount of telekinetic power, much the same as some victims of so called poltergeist activity. Two of his psychology students have already been involved with the abnormal psychology experiment for a few weeks by the time amateur cameraman Brian turns up to help, and it’s through him that we are introduced to the group and to the simultaneously frightening and fragile Miss Harper.
It soon becomes apparent to Brian that there’s more to the good professor than meets the eye and as things begin to take a turn for the worse and the group dynamics begin to break down he does some of his own research and discovers some very disturbing facts about both the professor and Jane Harper. On presenting his findings to the group all hell breaks loose, literally.
The Quiet Ones is less of a ghost story and more of a twisted drama about the nature of obsession and how it can slowly, but surely, destroy a person and all they hold dear. Professor Copeland, driven by events from his past, is sure that he can help Jane to free herself mentally from what she perceives is an evil spirit or force that has been a part of her for as long as she remembers. However, in being totally committed to proving his hypothesis and thus achieving his ultimate goal - that of winning the Nobel Peace prize - he loses his own humanity and becomes dangerously deranged towards the film’s fiery conclusion. An additional element of the film, about the professor’s own redemption, was brought in at a later stage of the script too, but I can’t say what that’s all about without giving too much away.
The film is nicely shot in and around Oxford and Harefield, has great sound design, by Lucas Vidal, makes good use of its period setting and atmospheric locations, and the cast all give it their all, with Harris and Cooke proving to be particularly memorable in their respective and meaty roles. The Quiet Ones also has some interesting ideas and the final payoff is pretty satisfying, but I would imagine that some viewers would have a few issues with it…
Firstly, it is fairly sedately paced compared to many modern horrors and this may frustrate some; it’s definitely closer in pacing to The Innkeepers than it is to, say, the Final Destination movies. Secondly, as a horror film, it’s not particularly scary, just mildly creepy some of the time and the filmmakers never really make the most of the supernatural element – they kind of rush through the interesting occult bits towards to end, which is a shame. Finally, our main window to this world, Brian, turns out to be a bit of a simpleton at times – told not to look into Jane’s eyes or engage in conversation with her, what’s the first thing he does when introduced to her – he looks into her eyes and talks to her – doh! He’s perhaps not the smartest element within a film that can be quite intellectual at times so perhaps he shouldn’t have been our conduit into that world or maybe he’s there to simplify it for us. However, one can’t really dislike any film that blasts out ‘Slade’ on a regular basis and has Hawkwind’s Silver Machine playing over the end credits.
The Quiet Ones has recently been released on DVD and Blu-ray and is being distributed by Lionsgate.
The extras consist of an audio commentary with the director and one of the producers, which I have to admit to not having listened to yet; a making of documentary called Welcome to the Experiment (33 minutes), which is interesting and engaging and informs about various aspects of the shoot including the locations, the production and sound design, visual effects and the casting; a short feature on the creation of the title sequence called Manifesting Evil (8 minutes), which is quite detailed, but interesting none the less; twenty five minutes worth of deleted scenes, many of which I can see clearly why they weren’t included in the final film, although a few should probably have been left in, including a scene where Chrissie explains to Brian how they intend to get rid of the negative energy known as Evi; and finally there’s a short (3 minutes) gag reel, which sees most of the cast fluffing lines, having the giggles, swearing and consistently dropping props such as keys.