John Pogue’s supernatural thriller The Quiet Ones, starring Jared Harris, Sam Claflin and newcomer Olivia Cooke, is inspired by a real 1970s poltergeist experiment. Wendy Mitchell visits the set of Hammer’s latest spooky production.

It is not often one gets spooked visiting a film set, but this reporter got the heebie-jeebies while walking around the creepy old house in Oxfordshire, England that served as the main location for new supernatural thriller The Quiet Ones. Perhaps that is a good sign of how scary Hammer’s finished film is likely to be.

John Pogue (Quarantine 2: Terminal) directs the project, which is now in post-production and is being sold by Exclusive Media here at the AFM. Alex Walton and his team have a promo to show buyers.

Tobin Armbrust, Exclusive Media’s president of worldwide production and acquisitions, oversaw the production alongside head of physical production Jillian Longnecker. TPSC Films president Steven Chester Prince is a producer on the project for the newly formed independent film division of the Traveling Picture Show Company.

Jared Harris, best known recently for Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows and for his role as Lane Pryce on Mad Men, plays an unorthodox butcharismatic professor who recruits some open-minded students (Erin Richards and Rory Fleck-Byrne) to attempt an experiment to create a poltergeist. Olivia Cooke plays a disturbed young girl who is brought into the experiment, and Sam Claflin (Snow White & The Huntsman) plays a local man hired to film it all. The film is inspired by true events that took place in Canada in the 1970s.

Screen visited the house that serves as the base for the unorthodox work of the professor and his students. “It is a twisted take on the family home,” says Ben Holden, who produces alongside James Gay-Rees. “It needed to be fairly iconic but this is not a haunted-house movie. It’s also about the relationships between the professor and his disciples, the pop scienceof the 1970s and morality. There will be bumps and scares — we hope it’s quite frightening.”

Tom de Ville wrote the story and original screenplay, which then had revisions by Craig Rosenberg, Oren Moverman and Pogue.

The Quiet Ones is so intelligent and elevated, while a lot of other scripts we were seeing at the time were slasher films and torture porn,” says Simon Oakes, vice-chairman of Exclusive Media and president and CEO of Hammer. “In the lexicon of horror, the gory movies will be a small box. This is more like Kubrick, Hitchcock and Polanski…The best form of genre movies are when you care about the characters. James Watkins brought that to The Woman In Black with Daniel Radcliffe’s character.”

Landing Pogue to direct was a great boost for the project. “He is a brilliant writer and now a brilliant director. He is such an expert in genre,” says Holden.

Pogue adds: “What drew me to the script was the concept, which I thought was thought provoking and intriguing. It was set in the 1970s with all this research into telekinesis, which was joined with experimental psychology. It’s part classic ghost story and part genre, a lot of different things. I really saw a lot of promise in the concept.”

Getting Harris on board as Professor Coupland was key. “Without question, he elevates it,” says Pogue. “I have been a huge fan of his work. He instantly takes it to another level. It helps pull out the rest of the cast. He’s had a lot of good ideas about his character and the atmosphere. He’s been a tremendous creative force on this project.”

Oakes adds: “It was a huge attraction for the other actors to be able to work with him.”

The producers are equally effusive about newcomer Cooke, who plays Harper, the troubled young guinea pig. “Harper is not an easy role, she has to have many facets. Olivia is a new actress, she’s going to be huge,” Oakes says of the 18-year-old. Pogue adds: “Olivia is a real find, she’s going to have a huge career.”

Cooke says of her role: “It is a great part — she’s manipulative but also innocent and naive. It’s a dream role.”

Glenn Garland (Grindhouse, Rob Zombie’s Halloween) serves as editor, Matthew Gant (Hush) as production designer and Matyas Erdely (Miss Bala) as cinematographer. Pogue notes they are using an Arri Alexa digital camera but making the film look like it was shot on 16mm. “Those early ‘70s movies that shot on 16mm were very exciting to me as a reference,” he says.

The team shot as much as they could on camera without relying too much on visual effects. “It is important for the sense of authenticity and reality,” Pogue says. “Less is more in many horror movies.”

Unit Zero, which also worked on David Fincher’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, is doing VFX. The Quiet Ones should be ready for delivery by the end of the year.