Hammer Films is slowly making it’s come back in the entertainment world, with The Woman In Black and Let Me In being some of their bigger hits, the company is starting to produce a few more films. Their latest one, The Quiet Ones is a title that is almost worthy of being on the top shelf. The John Pogue-directed film tries to make a good spook, but some how it ends up falling short. Hit the jump for the full review.
Set in the 1970s, Brian McNeal (Sam Claflin) is a quiet Oxford University student who has been assigned by Professor Coupland (Jared Harris) to help document a seemingly possessed young girl Jane Harper (Olivia Cooke) and prove that her psychosis a more scientific than it is supernatural. Coupland’s experiments are unorthodox, strange, questionable, and at times unethical. With his two assistants Harry Abrams (Rory Fleck-Byrne) and Kristina Dalton (Erin Richards) behind him, they will work together to cure Jane of her sickness by scientifically exercising the ghost. But as the audience will learn, this isn’t a simple as that.
The film is inspired by true events, mostly on The Philip Experiment, and when you hear of something like that, you know the truth would be be bent on the verge of being broken. And because of that, the film consistently switches back and forth from truth and fiction taking to a point where it doesn’t know which side to dupe you in. The film’s interesting concept and themes does give way to make a great film, but Pogue’s script itself seems to be unfocused and confused on which direction to take. Which actually makes it a little bit worse considering that Pogue actually directed the film.
Now Claflin, Harris, and Cooke all do fine with what they are given, which really isn’t saying much considering they are given a limited amount. Harris has no problem playing the eccentric professor who will bend the rules just to get the results he wants. Claflin may come off as a bit stiff at first, but that’s because he’s playing a camera man who doesn’t believe what he is filming before his eyes. Felck-Byrne and Richards just seem to fill that empty space.
But the true star of the film is Cooke who plays Jane Harper, the young girl who the professor and students believe to be possessed. She sells that innocent but unable to control herself nature very well. But what everyone does well is that they want to save Jane from her demons. That collective concern is at least believable in a film that is mostly unbelievable. The thing is, the execution of the film falls flat, very hard.
Another aspect of the film that I liked is Pogue embracing the Brian’s use of the camera to document the research. There are times where you actually see the film through his camera lens, and what he records will make you think if you really saw a ghost or what you think you saw is really just the quality of camera.
What is suppose to be a terrifying film ends up being an exercise in trying to differentiate what is comedy and what is horror. While the characters have their motivation to move their unethical experiments, the characters seem to want to bait the audience in believing that they are not walking into a full on scare trap. Let’s face it, moving into an abandoned house, treating the child like a child, actually believing you are making a breakthrough, all of it seems a bit like it comes from a very familiar playbook. So instead of the unsuspecting scares, actual character development, and chills, the film can only keep its head afloat with random moments of fright where people end up jumping out of their seats instead of being scarred psychologically. The screams from the audience will also be few and far in between.
There was a lot of potential in this film, and unfortunately that potential is fulfilled towards the end of the film, because that’s when the fear and scares start to emerge.