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The Quiet Ones - movie review
Release date: April 11
Starring: Jared Harris, Sam Claflin, Olivia Cooke, Erin Richards, Rory Fleck-Byrne
Director: John Pogue
What’s the story?
A cracked, fanatical professor (Jared Harris) hatches a crazy scheme to clear the mentalism from a troubled young girl (Olivia Cooke). Seeking to manifest a poltergeist from her negative emotional energy, a spook he could subsequently suck away, Ghostbuster style, the prof and his maverick student team unleash all the usual forces, the sort they couldn’t possibly understand, and subsequently fall prey to a variety of spooky happenings.
What did we think?
Even back in its heyday, the legendary Hammer Studios, England’s very own House of Horror, produced films of wildly varying quality. You can’t hit the bullseye every time, and often you miss the board entirely.
Still, it was thrilling when the brand returned, first with a pointless but decent remake of Swedish classic Let the Right One In (2008), renamed Let Me In (2010) for English-speaking audiences, and later, more effectively, for Dan Radcliffe period chiller The Woman in Black (2012). Consequently hopes were high for Hammer’s third movie offering, The Quiet Ones, really for a number of reasons.
The plot intrigued, for starters. The idea of deliberately creating a poltergeist is a great hook, because it’s an endeavour plainly doomed to mortal failure. Also we’re big fans of the movie’s lead, Jared Harris, a haughty, magnetic, bright spark of a character actor who’s still in search of his defining starring role. Thirdly, the movie’s 1970s setting seemed to promise visuals akin to vintage Hammer offerings, inviting nostalgists on a trip down memory lane.
"The idea of deliberately creating a poltergeist is a great hook, because it’s an endeavour plainly doomed to mortal failure"
Serves us right for getting our hopes up. Though the Hammer logo preceding the movie gave us the usual tingles, the film that followed felt like something James Wan could have handled brilliantly, but in the hands of director John Pogue, is regrettably a much more commonplace affair. Whereas Wan would have steadily amped up the tension and the supernatural scares, delivering a rollercoaster-style, audience-pleasing scream-fest, as he did with the likes of The Conjuring and Insidious movies, Pogue manages solely to keep things chugging along on an even keel, not bad, but not nearly engaging enough, and unhappily not very much fun.
There are shocks, and plenty of them. Some decent, some cheap. They make you jump, shoot adrenaline through your system, but between those jolts, the film grows increasingly wearisome. The atmosphere’s strong, the sound is nerve-jangling, and the production design certainly ticks all the right boxes, but the characters rarely engage, the scares are all rather samey, and the plot twists, when they predictably arrive, are less the sort that make your jaw drop, than they do your eyes roll.
Top of the class, cast-wise, is Olivia Cooke, known to many as the sickly Emma from TV’s increasingly special Bates Motel. As the troubled girl at the centre of the story, she’s required to be both victim and aggressor, both aspects of which she achieves with honours. As the cameraman documenting the experiment, through whose eyes much of the movie unfolds in the usual found-footage style, Mockingjay’s Sam Claflin is serviceable for the most part, but fails to hit any convincing highs. Which is a polite way of saying he’s not very good in this. Also sadly it seems Mr Harris is going to have to seek that career-defining role elsewhere, as his trademark arrogance, though initially delicious, quickly sours. Stronger dialogue might well have helped.
Though perfectly serviceable with a fair few jolts and a general air of creepiness, The Quiet Ones isn’t quite fully formed, a close-but-no-cigar sort of proposition that’s less a shot of scotch than a cup of warm tea. Ultimately overwhelmed by its weaknesses, it’s rendered unexpectedly dull.
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