2014 – PG 13 – 98 Minutes – Lionsgate
Starring Jared Harris, Sam Claflin, Olivia Cook – Directed by John Pogue
Much like the monsters they made films about, Hammer never truly died, although it did lay dormant for a long time. In 2008, they returned with Beyond on the Rave and hit it big with Let Me In in 2010 and The Woman in Black in 2012. This year, they released The Quiet Ones, a film inspired by true events. In a nutshell, the events in this film are based on The Philip Experiment in the 1970’s where a group of Canadian parapsychologists wanted to attempt an experiment to create a ghost, proving their theory that the human mind can produce spirits through expectation, imagination and visualization. Sounds interesting enough for a movie, but given that this is a Hammer production, loads of gothic atmosphere and sleaziness are thrown into the mix, making for a more fictional story than true. Lots of films do this, I’m not saying it’s bad thing, but does it mix well?
When he isn’t chain smoking like it’s about to be outlawed, Dr. Coupland (Jared Harris channeling his character from Mr. Deeds) wants to prove that the supernatural doesn’t exist through tortuous and almost medieval experiments, so he recruits the shy, inspiring young filmmaker Brian to document this rather fascinating experiment. Brian is interested right away and along with two of Dr. Coupland’s other students, Krissi (Erin Richards) and Harry, they waste no time to begin their experiment on Jane Harper (Olivia Cook). Jane seems possessed at times and as with any other possession movie that has come out in the last few years, we know she is possessed because she is a pale white woman with stringy hair and wears a white gown. Seriously, why does every possession movie feature a stringy haired white girl in a white gown? Do demons have an obsession toward those or does Hollywood just seem to think that is scary?
Jane is kept in a room with loud music blasting to keep her awake, which Dr, Coupland hopes will piss her off for better results. Sure it seems mean, but it does get good results. And just like any movie about college kids and a teacher conducting a “most unorthodox” experiment, funding is pulled and they have to relocate to a remote run down country house where all the really weird things begin to happen. Janes takes this possession, or negative energy rather, and focuses it on who she calls Evey, which she is given a doll to transfer it to so that it may be destroyed. Sounds easy on paper, but as Jane is driven more insane by these tests, the results become more violent.
Brian, increasingly developing feelings for Evey, becomes more upset and less likely to participate (not something you want under your name in the yearbook) as he even begins to develop somewhat of a relationship with Jane. However, this seemingly makes Evey more violent and vomit terrible looking CG tube monster things out of her mouth. When this happens, Dr. Coupland and gang look terrified, but if it were me I would have started laughing. Even after witnessing that silly manifestation, Dr. Coupland is still stubborn about the supernatural, not believing it to be a possession… even after a mysterious cult marking shows up on Jane’s body. So Brian heads off into town uncovering the truth behind the cult symbol and who Evey really is.
We also begin to see who Dr. Coupland really is. Well, he is still Dr. Coupland, but I am referring to his past and who the boy is in the video that he shows throughout the movie. We also learn of his motives and this is when the film starts to turn into a Hammer film… kind of. Jane, most likely because she is being driven mad, attempts to have sex with Brian and even flashes him while she is in the bathtub. The camera quickly cuts away from this, as if it is ashamed of its own content. Jane even begins to cut herself, but once the blood starts to ooze out, the cameras once again cut away. This all begs the question, then why have this at all? Is there a demand for safe, watered down horror films that I’m not aware of? Who watches these scenes and says, “Oh cool, there were almost boobs there!”
As the film begins to whimper out and we now know Jane’s history, Dr. Coupland begins to become more of a villain archetype, almost downright cartoonish. Tragic things begin to befall our cast and it’s up to Brian to stop it!
Surprisingly, The Quiet Ones is swimming with mood, nicely blending the free spirit look of the 70’s with the traditional rustic, gothic scenery that Hammer is notorious for. Unfortunately, that’s pretty much where their influence ends. The film does mix a nice blend of found footage and typical movie, as we watch the film as usual, then through the eyes of Brian or through the lens of his camera I should say. Although since this is the 70’s and he’s shooting on film, the snob in me can’t help but wonder how on Earth he is recording sound, since we never see any sound equipment recording it seperately and I’m pretty sure cameras, and film, back then couldn’t record sound.
But enough nitpicking, let’s get down to brass tax.
Just when something suspenseful and scary is picking up speed and the tension is building, the film cuts abruptly to the next scene. Substituting loud noises for genuine scares, the film never reaches true levels of terror, though it continuously makes you think it will. Think of walking quietly down a hallway with a friend and then they bang as loud as they can on a wall. That’s the kind of scares you’re in for here.
Sure the movie has blood and violence, sure the movie has sex, but The Quiet Ones is afraid to show any of it. Instead it merely wants to hint at it, forgetting that it’s a horror film. This is one of those cases where the final product really could have benefited from an ‘R’ rating. At the end of the day, it was nothing more than watered down imagery and loud jump scares and although I didn’t hate it, it’s nothing I’m going to remember, which is such a shame since all of the actors bring in real solid performances. Jared Harris has made a profession of playing the scumbag type of character and really makes Dr. Coupland detestable, yet likable. Olivia Cook is sinister and sympathetic, Sam Claflin is the likable moral centered one and Erin Richards is gorgeous as a 70’s tramp.
You really can’t help but to think of where all this talent and this idea could have gone if it weren’t so by the books and watered down. I can’t tell you how tired I am of the PG-13 horror movie craze that producers seem to be wanting to shove down our throats. Instead of getting a truly shocking, frightening film, we get something safe for the kids just to sell tickets. And how do these films generally do? Terrible. So what’s the point of making it PG-13 if your ticket sales aren’t really improving? If you’re going to imply all this sex and violence, grows some gonads and make it shocking. Your audience will respect and appreciate you for it. Instead what we get is the most shining example of a film playing it safe in recent memory.
I have an idea for an experiment. Try to sit through a PG-13 horror film like The Quiet Ones and try to get scared by it.