The Quiet Ones (2014)

The Quiet Ones is the latest offering from the re-booted Hammer Films. It takes place in Oxford, in the mid 70′s, and follows Professor Joseph Coupland (Jared Harris), two of his students (Erin Richards and Rory Fleck-Byrne), an amateur filmmaker that he ropes in (Sam Claflin) and his ‘patient’; Jane Harper (Olivia Cooke).

Professor Joseph thinks Jane is a very sick girl, and that the strange things that are happening to her are as a result of a manifestation of her unbalanced psyche, buried deep down within her. Or something. He, and his willing cohorts take her to a secluded manor house and proceed to lock her up and then experimentally treat her. “Cure one patient, cure mankind”, as the Professor declares on several occasions.

The Quiet Ones is a difficult film to like. The story has been seen before in other facets, and it’s been dealt with much more proficiently, time and time again. The jump scares are very cheap, relying on dropped cameras, loud noises and some obnoxious, over-bearing sound cues. The cast is its saving grace, however.

Jared Harris is wonderful as the swaggering, know-it-all, overly confident professor, Olivia Cooke makes her wide-eyed, angelic psych-patient just the right level of endearing yet frightening, and Sam Claflin, looking like a much less punch-able Nicholas Hoult, is the only character with a modicum of sense and therefore the only one worthy of any real sympathy.

Some of the acting dips dangerously close to melodrama at times, and even Harris is guilty of this on occasion, which lends the film more of a stage-play feel rather than the movie realism that’s required to make the story work. For the most part though, the cast hit their marks and propel proceedings along adequately.

Making half the film found footage is a very curious choice, especially since the film is set in the 70′s. I understand that it might be necessary to document such outside-the-box treatment of a mentally ill person, but I’m pretty sure that film footage would not have been the way it was done, especially for a University project that had had its funding pulled. Switching between regular film and found footage is disorienting, and not in a good way. All it served to do was pull me out of the film at moments where I felt I should have been more engrossed than ever. Whether this was to disguise some of the effects due to budgetary constraints, or to appeal to an audience that’s becoming ever more resigned to shaky cam and grainy footage, I don’t know, but it’s woefully misjudged, either way.

The biggest sin of The Quiet Ones though, is the abject lack of exposition in the first half of the film. I respect films that treat their audiences like adults and don’t spoon feed them information over and over again, but to expect them to fill in all of the gaps is equally objectionable, in my opinion. The film spends more time explaining how Brian; our wet-behind-the-ears cameraman comes to be a part of the project than it does on the actual case they’re investigating. The editing, switching between regular film and found footage, and harsh jump cuts, all add up to make the set-up of The Quiet Ones very confusing indeed.

By the end of the film, if you still care, the poor character decisions and Professor Couplands preposterously staunch attachment to his absurd theories in the face of evidence to the contrary will have most horror fans shaking their heads in disappointment. We’ve seen these sorts of films so often that the characters need to shine, but here they merely re-tread the mistakes of their predecessors and it makes for very frustrating viewing.

Although some of the sets are impressive, and the acting solid, The Quiet Ones is a bit of a disaster in other aspects. With an iconic name like Hammer behind the production, we’ve come to expect more and The Quiet Ones doesn’t deliver the required gravitas. Watch if you’re a fan of period movies with a few cheap scares thrown in, but otherwise avoid.

Rating: ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

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