Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 38 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Intense Sequences of Violence and Terror, Sexual Content, Thematic Material, Language and Smoking throughout
Directed by: John Pogue
Written by: Craig Rosenberg, John Pogue, Oren Moverman & Tom de Ville
Starring: Jared Harris, Sam Claflin, Olivia Cooke, Erin Richards & Rory Fleck-Byrne
The revival of Hammer studios hasn’t been as big of a splash as one might have initially hoped. The production company was known for making top-notch British horror flicks back in its heyday and disappeared after a steady decline that took place during the 1970’s. The resurrection of this horror label made many fans of classy old-school scary movies excited to see what they would do in this modern age. Thus far, their best efforts have wound up being two so-so remakes (LET ME IN, THE WOMAN IN BLACK) and disappointing original projects (WAKE WOOD, THE RESIDENT). With THE QUIET ONES, there’s some sort of attempt being made to get back to the slow-burn supernatural freakiness that was so popular in Hammer’s classic efforts, but it winds up being for not. THE QUIET ONES is a disappointment that is made even more disappointing by the glimmers of the good movie that might have been.
Wasting no time in kicking things off, the story introduces us to the experiments of Professor Coupland. The abnormal psychology teacher is indulging in the notion that supernatural powers might actually be the root of some mental illness. Brian, a camera man and one of his students, is instantly intrigued by this radical theory and wants to document these experiments. So doing the most rational non-dangerous thing in the world, Coupland and his three assistants take a dangerous schizophrenic patient and move her to an isolated house in the middle of nowhere. The patient’s name is Jane Harper and as an orphan, unexplained bad things occurred in every foster home that took her in. With the urging of Coupland, Brian and two other researches perform some elaborate experiments, some of which are downright unethical and harmful to Jane. Turns out that their attempts to cure Jane might not be benefitting her, but rather pissing the deadly supernatural presence that surrounds her off to their own harm.
There are some interesting ideas at the core of THE QUIET ONES and one might argue that the premise itself is pretty original. The studio known for taking the less bloody approach to horror doesn’t stray from their usual execution here either. Hammer delivers this film as a deliberately paced slow-burn with some good characters. Despite some low production values and other problems (of which I will address in a moment), I was always interested in seeing where the story was heading next. There’s some credit due in that. The acting is really solid from every cast member and elevates the film as a little better than one might expect in that field alone. However, this doesn’t excuse every single sloppy decision or lame cliché that has been thrown in as well.
There are kernels of a really terrifying film within the story of THE QUIET ONES, but the script itself (penned by four different writers and based on the screenplay of an unrelated writer) keeps things very vague. The force surrounding Jane seems to be changing from scene to scene. There aren’t any solid rules for this supernatural entity and one might argue that it makes it scarier, but I actually found it less frightening that I was at the mercy of screenwriters who seemed to be making some things up on the spot left and right. This unseen being didn’t do a whole lot until the final 30 minutes (a lot of which have already been briefly glimpsed in the trailer). The scares of THE QUIET ONES are mainly in the incapable hands of annoying fake-outs that pissed me off more than made me jump. It’s completely cliché to include fake-out scares in horror movies these days and most have wisely learned from that. Apparently, director John Pogue hasn’t because there was a lame jump-scare (due to a colleague popping up unexpectedly or a radio blasting) every five minutes or so. This is about as annoying as it sounds.
Two different attempts are made at shocking revelations showcased in the final act. One of these surprises worked very well and the other seemed half-assed. Hence the problems of the underdeveloped premise and the presence of four screenwriters throwing in whatever they felt might freak out young people, while not really caring to finish the potentially cool movie hiding within THE QUIET ONES. The effects themselves look very cheesy and consist of really bad CGI. The narrative also jumps between found footage (of the recorded experiments) and the traditional movie. This approach might have been well-done in certain hands, but it’s jarring when seen here. It felt like there were too many cooks in the kitchen with this film and none of them cared to fully finish the dish before serving it.
By the end of THE QUIET ONES, I felt like everybody involved had a different idea about what kind of movie they wanted to make. The blending of found footage and a traditional narrative is done so sloppily that it made me wonder why they just didn’t go for a single approach. With a proper script, this might have been a decent found footage movie or a decent enough traditional narrative. The acting (especially from Jared Harris and Olivia Cooke) elevates the film a bit. I was always interested in seeing where things would ultimately wind up, but disappointed to find they wound up in a lame mess confused with its own identity. For a film called THE QUIET ONES, it certainly relies on a lot of loud blast-you-right-out-of-your-seat sound effects. I can’t recommend this one at all. THE QUIET ONES is an intriguing failure.