Horror films from Hammer are an institution and audiences have come to love and expect a certain kind of quality from these films, especially if you look to the long history of films that pretty much made horror from Britain important but since Hammer re-opened it’s door, the films that have had the name attached have been a little hit and miss and unfortunately John Pogue’s The Quiet Ones is a miss, as it seems wildly unambitious and flat. Whilst the film is loosely based upon an experiment from the 70s, the Philip Experiment, a parapsychology study, the final film feels stuffy and not too interested in actually exploring the world of the experiment itself.
Starring Mad Men actor, Jared Harris alongside The Hunger Games‘ Sam Claflin and a host of lesser known actors, The Quiet Ones follows Harris’ Professor Coupland as a researcher Oxford University who wishes to prove there is no such thing as the supernatural. He shows his class a video of a young boy who seems possessed and assures the class there is a cure for this kind of illness. Later he invites Brian (Claflin) to come and help record an experiment he is currently working on alongside his assistants, Krissi (Erin Richards) and Harry (Rory Fleck-Byrne). The experiment is a young girl, Jane Harper (Olivia Cooke) who has been abandoned and strange paranormal happenings occur around her. Soon the story becomes somewhat convoluted, Jane’s demonic energy appears in the form of a doll that only she can see but when she is given an actual doll to concentrate her energy upon – odder things start to occur in the house they are staying in and to the researchers themselves.
Through a rather droll series of twists and turns, secrets are revealed and Pogue along with scriptwriters, Craig Rosenberg and Oren Moverman try to keep the audience guessing until the very end. Whilst not entirely obvious, the story itself doesn’t seem all that concerned with actually making complete sense as it goes on. There are of course some strengths to the tale, things that do make the story stand out including Brian’s mistrust of Coupland and the experiment; he slowly starts to fall romantically for this strange and tortured girl and becomes worried about the way she is being treated. This is an interesting morality tale, something that when it happens within horror can be brilliant, but it seems that although hinted at throughout, none of the crew had the confidence to pursue this as the main story of the film.
One of the ultimate and unfortunate failures of the film is the complete lack of chemistry between the cast; when you take a small selection of characters into an isolated and claustrophobic atmosphere as they have with The Quiet Ones (by being taken out the countryside), the cast themselves must look like they are interested and invested in tale but unfortunately not one performance is memorable or even tries to save this production. Harris in particular, whilst brilliant in Mad Men, just feels like he is reading from the script throughout without really thinking about what his character’s motivations are (they possibly weren’t even clear to him when they made the film). It’s a shame because there is so much potential with this film on paper.
Pogue’s film isn’t especially memorable or worthy of recommendation, it will go down as another horror film that tried to be clever about ghosts and even the shocking twist at the end does nothing for the rest of this picture. It takes a very particular filmmaker and writer to be able to portray the paranormal on screen and unfortunately this is not the one.