Hammer productions, the British heavyweight in horror, has a varied and vivid history spanning some 60 years. Continually resurrected and sent out to terrorize the world not simply as a dinstinctly British brand of haunting tales, but as a worldwide brand synonymous with cult following. In 2007 the company was again brought back from the dead and has since released five features (including the acclaimed Let Me In and The Woman in Black), The Quiet Ones is the studio’s sixth film.
The Quiet Ones, directed by John Pogue, is based on the infamous ‘Philip Experiment’ of 1972 wherein a group of Canadian parapsycologists attempted to literally create a ghost through intense expectation and visualisation. The experiment worked to some degree, with insinuation and the human mind colliding to allow for supposedly supernatural occurrence. Pogue’s film is, like many horror films based on true events, only lightly skimmed from a loose framework of the base tale. Here, Jared Harris’ Professor Coupland attempts to prove that a young girl’s supposed possession is the product of negative mental energy, through non-traditional methods of psychiatric care and parapsychiatric investigation.
The Quiet Ones feels like an old school Hammer film but perhaps not in the best way. Rather than coming out like one of the studios better executed classics, it feels like one of the back alley flash-stops used to keep Christopher Lee or Peter Cushing in contract. Harris makes an undeniably good modern-day Lee, his trademark charm and eloquence keeping attention from start to finish, even impressing amidst the generally flat vibe exuded by the other cast members. But apart from that, the modern Hammer feature maintains only the misfired attentions of its classic counterparts, not their ingenuity or resourcefulness.
Its creeps and spooks aren’t exactly legion, and when they do pop up they are either too tired or void of originality to elicit any kind of response. Which is a shame considering the potential of a period setting, here reduced to occasional “vintage” hand-held. Olivia Cooke spends most of the film acting mopey and playing with her creepy doll. It’s all a bit textbook. Weird old toys. A manor of some kind. Loud noises, followed by quiet noises. More loud noises and shaky camera work. What was that? Who knows? The power inevitably cuts and the hapless band of para-people are forced to perform the most ingratiating of found-footage clichés: the pitch-black ramble. Here, the group must run to and fro in a space void of light searching for a hitherto ticking-time-bomb of a threat, usually a creepy girl.
The film should have remembered its title, and what that means in the story, it should have abandoned half-assed group politics and taken up its own invitation to live with potential supernature. Instead what we get are a group of ultimately flat characters going through the motions of change but not actually enacting them. What we are given is superficiality. Even though the Blu-ray of this film looks great, it’s got nothing to do with the actual camera work or visual element which is, for the most part, fairly uninspired. Instead, The Quiet Ones is an under-average ghost story in possession of a beginning middle and end, but not very much else.
A disappointing latest from Hammer and a step backwards from The Woman in Black, The Quiet Ones is bare, not particularly frightening, and just kind of…happens to you. Harris keeps the whole parade afloat until it chokes on its own tedious nature.
Dir. John Pogue
Stars. Jared Harris, Sam Claflin, Olivia Cooke, Erin Richards