Dir: John Pogue. UK. 2014. 98mins
A subtly chilling – and rather old-fashioned at heart – occult thriller, The Quiet Ones, the latest from reconstituted horror film factory Hammer Films is an impressively sustained tale of supernatural possession, and while it may lack the sheer jolt value of the Paranormal Activity series let alone the blood quota of other recent horror hits it succeeds in terms of its creepy atmosphere and spiraling descent into terror.
Jared Harris brings just the right balance of academic seriousness and paranormal obsessiveness, and is perfect as the increasingly manipulative and mildly deranged scientist.
Originating in the 1930s, the Hammer brand churned out classic British horror film, and the brand was revived in 2008 and has since produced the Let Me In, the English-language remake of the vampire film Let The Right One In, and more recently the hit ghost vengeance story The Woman In Black, starring Daniel Radcliffe.
The Quiet Ones, while well produced and nicely chilling, may be unlikely to replicate the success of The Woman In Black (the Radcliffe factor and its ghostly period setting worked in its favour), but it opens in a marketplace lacking in horror films – and there is certainly an audience out there for the genre – and perhaps looking for an alternative to superhero films and audience friendly Easter releases.
Director John Pogue comes with good pedigree – he scripted films like US Marshalls and Ghost Ship and was writer/director of Quarantine 2: Terminal – and appropriately studied experimental psychology at college. This tallies nicely with the backdrop of The Quiet Ones, the 1970s Golden Age of paranormal research.
Young wannabe filmmaker Brian McNeil (Sam Claflin, from The Hunger Games: Catching Fire) is asked by Professor Coupland (Jared Harris) at Oxford University record the “experiments” he and his team are conducting on Jane Harper (Olivia Cooke, from Bates Motel), a young girl who may harbour dark supernatural secrets.
The team are thrown out of their University rooms when things take a strange turn, and relocate to a remote country house here Coupland and his loyal research assistants Krissi Dalton (Erin Richards, from Open Grave) and Harry Abrams (Rory Fleck-Byrne, from Vampire Academy). But as the experiments continue it becomes clear that there is something supernatural lurking within Jane, and as links to an occult cult are revealed evil starts to permeated the house and – unsurprisingly – blood starts to flow.
The 1970s setting gives the film a refreshingly off-kilter quality – not only reminiscent of earlier Hammer films from the period, but gives the costume department a chance to get Erin Richards to wear short skirts and hot-pants – and while the film never trades on full-blown gore it slowly layers in the spooky effects and a lingering sense of dread.
Jared Harris brings just the right balance of academic seriousness and paranormal obsessiveness, and is perfect as the increasingly manipulative and mildly deranged scientist. Sam Claflin is fine as the keen film student roped into an unusual world and who finds himself drawn to Jane, but his character barely develops, and some of the attempts to blend ‘found footage’ style material via his camerawork seem a little clumsy at times.
Perhaps too low-key to really draw the hard-core horror crowd, The Quiet Ones prefers a slow-burn sense of dread rather than hard-core blood-and-guts, and to a certain extent is all the better for it.
Production companies: Hammer Films, Exclusive Media, Travelling Picture Show Company
International sales: Exclusive Media, www.exclusivemedia.com
Producers: Simon Oakes, Tobin Armbrust, Steven Chester Prince, Ben Holden,
Screenplay: Craig Rosenberg, Oren Moverman, John Pogue, based on a screenplay by Tom de Ville
Cinematography: Matyas Erdely
Editor: Glenn Garland
Music: Lucas Vidal
Production designer: Matthew Gant
Main cast: Jared Harris, Sam Claflin, Olivia Cooke, Erin Richards, Rory Fleck-Byrne