From the mid-1950s through the 1970s, U.K.-based Hammer Films was renowned for stylish horror and sci-fi, starring Vincent Price, Peter Cushing and/or Christopher Lee. After several futile attempts at revival, in 2007, Dutch media tycoon John de Mol bought Hammer Films and Simon Oakes took over as CEO. Since then, it’s produced notable thrillers like “Let Me In” (2010), “The Resident (2011), “The Woman in Black” (2012) and now “The Quiet Ones.” Read on…
Supposedly based on real events, this sinister story, set in 1974, revolves around an Oxford University psychology professor, Joseph Coupland (Jared Harris), who recruits a geeky cameraman, Brian McNeil (Sam Claflin), from the audiovisual department to document his highly unorthodox experiments on Jane Harper (Olivia Cooke), a teenager with profound psychiatric problems. Jane appears to be possessed by a malevolent entity named Evey, and Coupland wants to prove that Jane is creating ghostly Evey through her own psychic powers, which would be a significant breakthrough in the treatment of mental illness. “Cure one patient – you cure mankind.”
For his own inexplicable reasons, Coupland continually subjects already traumatized Jane to loud rock music, like Slade’s “Cum on Feel the Noize.” When neighbors complain and Oxford suspends his funding, Coupland relocates to a spooky country estate, conveniently located miles from anywhere, bringing along shrieking Jane, skeptical Brian and his romantically entwined assistants Kristina (Erin Richards) and Harry (Rory Fleck-Byrne). Predictably, Jane’s telekinetic energy grows, wreaking diabolical, supernatural havoc.
Collaborating with Craig Rosenberg, Oren Moverman, and Tom de Ville, screenwriter-turned-director John Pogue (“Quarantine 2: Terminal”) draws very loosely on Dr. A.R.G. Owen’s legendary “Philips Experiment” in Toronto in 1972, when academic researchers tried to prove that ghosts and poltergeists are constructs of the human mind. By cleverly casting actors like Jared Harris (”Mad Men”) and Sam Claflin (“Hunger Games”), Pogue at least achieves name recognition for his cliché-filled, derivative narrative. But his use of the jittery shaky-cam is extremely disconcerting.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Quiet Ones” is a campy, creepy 4 – sinister but not scary enough.