The resurrection of Hammer Films has been a bit hit or miss. While their “debut” releases Beyond the Rave (2009) and the high-profile remake Let Me In (2010) were solid genre entries, they just didn’t “feel” like true Hammer films. 2011’s Wormwood and The Resident were both steps in the right direction,but it was 2012’s hit, the gothic shocker, The Woman in Black, that proved to be a true return to Hammer form, giving us both a creepy period English setting and some truly goosebump inducing thrills.
While 2014’s The Quiet Ones didn’t come close to duplicating The Woman in Black’s box-office or positive critical reception, I felt that this supernatural thriller actually worked far better than expected, and while it may not be on par with Hammer’s greats, it certainly fits in right alongside the studio’s darker early 70s offerings.
Based loosely on 1972’s Philip Experiment – an attempt by a team of Canadian parapsychologists to “create” a ghost by exploiting the mind’s ability to conjure things when faced with extreme stimuli – The Quiet Ones moves the action to England, where Oxford professor, Joseph Coupland (Jared Harris), assembles a team of his best students to help prove that possession is merely a fabrication by the human mind – one that can even manifest itself physically given the right motivation. Coupland and his team – including Krissi (Erin Richards), Harry (Rory Fleck-Byrne), and cameraman Brian (Sam Clavin) – attempt to prove this theory with the assistance of Jane Harper (Olivia Cooke), a former mental patient “rescued” by Coupland, who spends her days locked in a mostly empty room off campus, denied sleep, proper nutrition, and any semblance of comfort so that she remain in what Coupland feels is an necessarily agitated state to increase the frequency of her interactions with “Eve”, the being she feels lives within her.
Coupland’s methods are not without its detractors, and this leads to him being fired from the university, and forced to continue his studies at a remote country manse, where Brian, Krissi, and Harry all volunteer to help him. While there, however, Brian and Jane develop a mutual attraction, and Coupland exploits this to his study’s benefit. It’s not long, however, before Coupland’s rough treatment of his subject and the increasing intensity of Eve’s “visits” begin to make Brian and his fellow students question both the professor’s intentions and qualifications, especially when the being that inhabits Jane’s body proves to be more than Coupland’s science can explain.
Obviously in an attempt to cash-in on the found footage stylings of films like The Last Exorcism and Paranormal Activity, much of The Quiet Ones is “seen” through the eyes of Brian’s camera, with the footage given a bit of print damage and vignetting around the edges to denote the fact that it was shot on film rather than video (seeing as how video cameras weren’t exactly widely available in the early seventies). It’s actually handled quite nicely, however, as the “footage” serves more as a compliment to the film proper rather than a gimmick that run its entirety, and the two blend together seamlessly. This affords the director John Pogue the ability to have the best of both worlds – a traditional supernatural thriller and the jump-scare laden “first person” style that’s currently all the rage in the genre.
While The Quiet Ones won’t have viewers jumping out of their seats, it does offer more than its share of sleight-of-hand scares and nerve-rattling bumps and groans, and there’s a fairly constant sense of unease at play. The direction is solid, and the acting is well above average for a low-budget chiller, with Bates’ Motel’s Cooke and Harris both delivering especially strong performances.
The film’s pacing is bit inconsistent – plodding in some places while seeming positively rushed where it matters, and I felt that the love story between Brian and Jane was given something of the short shrift here, lessening its impact, but, overall, I actually enjoyed The Quiet Ones a lot more than I expected to, especially given its lackluster reviews and box-office. I will say that this is the kind of movie that I feel plays better at home than in a crowded theater, so I think its fortunes will be brighter on Blu-ray.
Lionsgate’s Blu-ray presentation offers up the film in a 1.78:1 1080p transfer that, while intentionally dark and muted in terms of color, is crisp and clean, and affords a fair amount of fine detail in faces, fabrics, and materials. The accompanying 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio track is a bit of a nightmare for people who tend to watch their films at a conservative volume as dialogue is very soft while the films myriad audio jolts literally woke the dead (in this case my wife and kids, all of whom could sleep through a plane crash). For those of you who have no volume restrictions, however, this track definitely packs a wallop.
Bonus features include a rather staid commentary track with Pogue and Producer Tobin Armbrust, as well as a fairly beefy making of documentary, a collection of deleted scenes, a short outtakes reel, and a look at the film’s opening sequence (which isn’t all that spectacular, so I don’t know why it merited its own feature, but there it is). Sadly, we don’t get anything about the “true” story that inspired the film, but there’s always Wikipedia.
While The Quiet Ones doesn’t bring anything new to the table, it’s a well-made and well-acted piece that, for me, definitely captured the Hammer vibe. It’s not the success that The Woman in Black was, but, to be honest, neither was the bulk of Hammer’s original catalog, so, for me, The Quiet Ones fits in quite nicely.