×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘The Quiet Ones’

There's little that's exactly new or fresh in Hammer Films' latest exercise in retro horror.

With:
Sam Claflin, Jared Harris, Olivia Cooke, Erin Richards, Rory Fleck-Byrne.

Having hit the international jackpot with “The Woman in Black,” the revived Hammer Films label follows up with a title that lacks that haunted-house pic’s familiarity of source material, highly accessible premise and equivalently marketable star. Instead, “The Quiet Ones” presents rising actor Sam Claflin as an average guy participating in an ethically dubious scientific experiment into psychic disturbance. The 1970s setting offers a retro feel that should strike appealing chords for fans of old-school horror, but there’s little here that’s exactly new or fresh, indicating a challenge for Lionsgate to make the film’s voice heard above the din. The pic opens April 25 Stateside.

May 1974, Oxford. Local lad Brian McNeil (Claflin), who works in the university’s audiovisual unit, is projecting archival research material to accompany a lecture delivered by paranormal psychology expert Joseph Coupland (Jared Harris). Would the young man be willing to film the professor’s potentially groundbreaking work with a profoundly disturbed woman named Jane Harper (Olivia Cooke, “Bates Motel”)? The treatment seems less than academically rigorous — for some reason, Jane is subjected to au courant hits such as Slade’s “Cum on Feel the Noize” at deafening volumes — but an intrigued Brian agrees.

After getting shut down by a nervous university establishment, Coupland’s pet project is happily relocated to more photogenic accommodations in a sprawling country estate. There, the professor, the cameraman and two romantically entangled students — Krissi (Erin Richards) and Harry (Rory Fleck-Byrne) — hunker down with traumatized Jane in a bid to monitor and extract her “negative brain energy.” “Cure one patient, we cure mankind,” declares a messianic Coupland.

Popular on Variety

Exactly how the university employees and students are able to abruptly abandon their jobs and studies in the middle of the summer term — or where, for that matter, Brian’s footage (which is in fact shot digitally on the Arri Alexa) is being developed and printed — is left to the viewer’s imagination. Instead, attention is pulled toward the highly arresting Jane and her malignant alter ego, Evey, who resides in a child’s plastic doll. Brian is clearly smitten by Jane, but he’s warned away by Coupland, whose own wandering libido suggests he’s not likely to live to see the end credits.

An easy diagnosis for Jane would be demonic possession, especially when devilish symbols start appearing on skin, and the temperature of Krissi’s bath water is raised to the boiling point, even after she and Harry have returned to the ostensible safety of campus. Really, just how far can Jane’s negative telekinetic energy go? But Coupland resists any supernatural explanations, stubbornly clinging to his own scientific hypothesis right up until the hectic climax, in which the film’s twin visual effects houses do their worst.

The presence of Brian’s camera gives director John Pogue (“Quarantine 2: Terminal”) plenty of opportunity to throw in found-footage verite as well as jittery handheld sequences, and few will worry too much about the film’s lax standards with regard to its self-filmed conceit. Some may wonder, however, how Brian’s camera projects a flashlight-like beam up and down darkened staircases, a convenient device in terms of generating spooky chills.

The opening credits make use of that oft-abused expression “inspired by actual events,” and indeed, the story here is based on an actual case in which Toronto researchers attempted to harvest their own emotional energy. The big leap from that particular scientific investigation to the freaky occurrences depicted here needn’t trouble us unduly, but the fact remains that Dr. A.R.G. Owen’s real-life “Philip Experiment” doesn’t sound interesting enough to give Lionsgate and Hammer much of an additional marketing hook equivalent to, say, the paranormal investigators whose work inspired “The Conjuring.”

After his supporting roles in three major Hollywood blockbusters — “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” “Snow White and the Huntsman” and “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” — “The Quiet Ones” reps the first real test of Claflin’s mettle as a leading man, and studio executives will be monitoring box office returns with interest. But upcoming projects including “Posh” and “Love, Rosie” will surely paint the actor in more vivid colors, and instead it’s Cooke’s wide eyes and mighty shrieks that linger most in the memory. By the time her “Ouija” lands this fall, a new scream queen may well have been anointed.

Film Review: 'The Quiet Ones'

Reviewed at Soho Screening Rooms, London, Feb. 27, 2014. Running time: 98 MIN.

Production: (U.K.) A Lionsgate release of an Exclusive Media presentation in association with Traveling Picture Show Co. of a Hammer Films production in association with Mindfield Films. (International sales: Exclusive Media, London.) Produced by Steven Chester Prince, Ben Holden, James Gay-Rees, Simon Oakes, Tobin Armbrust. Executive producers, Kevin Matusow, Kate Bacon, Carissa Buffel, Jillian Longnecker, Alex Brunner, Nigel Sinclair, Guy East, Marc Schipper. Co-producers, Geno Tazioli, Bill Wohlken.

Crew: Directed by John Pogue. Screenplay, Craig Rosenberg, Oren Moverman, Pogue, based on a screenplay by Tom de Ville. Camera (color, HD), Matyas Erdely; editor, Glenn Garland; music, Lucas Vidal; music supervisor, Andy Ross; production designer, Matthew Gant; art director, Caroline Barclay; set decorator, Anita Gupta; costume designer, Camille Benda; sound, Henry Milliner; supervising sound editors, Eric Lalicata, Tom Boykin; re-recording mixer, Boykin; make-up, hair, prosthetics designer, Paul Boyce; visual effects supervisors, Gavin Whelan, Thomas Tannenberger; visual effects, TPSC VFX, Gradient Effects; special effects supervisor, Scott McIntyre; stunt coordinator, Andy Bennett; line producer, Tina Pawlik; assistant director, Mark Fenn; second unit camera, Gabi Norland; casting, Sasha Robertson.

With: Sam Claflin, Jared Harris, Olivia Cooke, Erin Richards, Rory Fleck-Byrne.

More Film

  • Uncut Gems

    Listen: Adam Sandler Wore $400,000 Worth of Diamonds and Gold in 'Uncut Gems'

    Adam Sandler may not have received a Golden Globe or SAG Awards nomination for his work in “Uncut Gems,” but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a shot at the Oscars. It will be a tough road to get there, but despite some snubs, the National Board of Review named Sandler the year’s best actor [...]

  • Chinonye Chukwu Clemency

    Chinonye Chukwu on Golden Globes of Female Directors Shutout

    “Clemency” writer-director Chinonye Chukwu is weighing in on the HFPA’s failure to nominated a female director for the 2020 Golden Globes. “It’s part of the systemic oppressions that we’re all apart of and that’s internalized in many,” Chukwu told Variety in response to Monday morning’s announcement. “We need to get people in positions of power who [...]

  • Brad Pitt Dede Gardner Jeremy Kleiner

    Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner to Receive Producers Guild Honor

    The Producers Guild of America will honor Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner of Plan B with the David O. Selznick Achievement Award. They will accept the honor at the 31st Annual Producers Guild Awards on Jan. 18 at the Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles. Previous recipients include Steven Spielberg, Barbara Broccoli, Saul Zaentz, [...]

  • Little Women BTS

    Golden Globes' Snub of Women Directors Has Depressing Implications (Column)

    It was a schizophrenic, bad news, good news kind of week for women in Hollywood. To quote Natalie Portman at the 2018 Golden Globe Awards ceremony, “And here are all the male nominees.” Yep, once again, the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. failed to nominate any female directors, as we disappointingly learned when the contenders for [...]

  • Matteo Garrone's Pinocchio

    Roberto Benigni, Matteo Garrone Unveil New Live-Action 'Pinocchio' in Rome

    Italian director Matteo Garrone unveiled his live-action version of “Pinocchio” in Rome on Thursday together with Oscar-winner Roberto Benigni, who plays Mastro Geppetto, and other key cast members ahead of the hotly anticipated film’s holiday release in Italy. Garrone, known for dark arthouse titles such as “Gomorrah” and Cannes title “Dogman,” made it clear that [...]

  • Participant, Magnolia Pictures Buy 'John Lewis:

    Magnolia Pictures, Participant Buy 'John Lewis: Good Trouble' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Participant and Magnolia Pictures have acquired North American rights to “John Lewis: Good Trouble,” a look at the life and career of the civil rights activist and congressional leader. The film was executive produced and financed by CNN Films, AGC Studios and Time Studios. Magnolia is planning to release the film in the spring of [...]

  • Star Wars Maryann Brandon JJ Abrams

    How Could J.J. Abrams Follow 'Star Wars'? 'I'd Love to Direct a Play'

    When “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” debuts on Dec. 20, it will, of course, mark the official close to the nine-film Skywalker Saga, one of the most successful franchises in movie history, grossing more than $7.7 billion worldwide to date (not including spinoff films “Rogue One” and “Solo”). “The Rise of Skywalker” also marks [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content