The Quiet Ones

UK Release Date 11th April 2014
Director John Pogue
Starring Jared Harris, Olivia Cooke
Runtime 101 Minutes
Certificate 15
Reviewer Si
Reviewed 16th February 2014

Ghost movies are a difficult trick to pull off. We’re huge fans of a decent supernatural tale but genuinely scary ones come along very rarely. Recently we’ve had the ever diminishing return of the once scary Paranormal Activity series and the actually pretty good The Conjuring. Slightly further back we had Hammer's own Woman In Black which not only managed to almost convince us that Daniel Radcliffe was a grown up, it also did a pretty decent job of scaring us silly. Well, the production team that bought us that movie are back with a new scare. Slightly more worryingly perhaps though, so is the writer of Ghost Ship.

The Quiet Ones does at least go for a new angle on the poltergeist tale. Borderline lunatic and Oxford lecturer Professor Coupland (Jared Harris) has a new theory. He’s fallen upon the idea that ghosts are actually physical manifestations of people’s mental illness. Cure the illness he reckons and you get rid of the ghosts. To prove this he has secured a very damaged young girl, whom he has ‘rescued’ from the foster care system, to test his theory on. Jane (Olivier Cooke) is consequently locked in a room on campus and is constantly barraged by very loud rock music ‘for her own good’. She is monitored by two students, Kristina and Harry, who play nurse and diligently fill out graph paper on the wall outside her room respectively. The Professor takes on working class cameraman Brian (Sam Claflin) to document the experiment but unfortunately, in a scene somewhat reminiscent of Ghostbusters, he is soon kicked off campus as the deans do not approve of his methods. Undeterred, the team relocate to a suitably rundown mansion in the sticks where the phones don’t work and all the floors creek. Obviously the experiment does not go well and soon there are more cracks in the team than an ancient floorboard. I omitted to mention all of this is inspired by true events and is set in the seventies, neither makes any difference.

What this all amounts to is an uneasy mix of borderline child abuse and sudden bangs that pass for scares. Harris has a great time as the permanently smoking swivel-eyed loon that is Coupland. He starts off seemingly reasonable enough but his slow descent into nutcase is one of the more impressive aspects of the film. Obviously he comes completely off the rails by the end but by then, all bets are off. Olivier Cooke is the standout aspect of the entire movie - the girl will go far. She treads a very fine line between teenage vixen and tortured child. One minute cowering terrified in the corner of her locked room, the next speaking in tongues like any good possessed girl and putting on quite the most unnerving stare we’ve seen for a while.

That’s the good news. The remainder is not so great. Kristina and Harry are standard stereotype Oxford student bores. Kristina skulks around in a variety of stock 1970’s skimpy outfits and bangs Harry, Coupland and the bed, although quite what she sees in Coupland is never really established. Clafin’s cameraman is more interesting but unfortunately any potential to dig into the working class clash with the rest of the team is left untouched and we’re left with the usual scary movie issue of wondering just why the hell he didn’t bail in the first ten minutes.

Director John Pogue makes the usual scary movie mistake of assuming that periods of quite followed by sudden LOUD noises makes for scary, that and a van door opening creepily by itself. I have a kitchen drawer that does that, it's not scary. His framing isn’t expansive enough for us to spend any time scrutinising the outer reaches of the shot for scares although he does achieve a decent 70’s feel to the footage. The use of a semi-found footage mechanism gives us some decent creepy bits as Brian attempts to film the experiment but it’s unevenly utilised with some parts of movie seemingly thinking it’s happening through Brian’s camera when it isn’t. More unforgivably we get some pretty ropey special effects hammered (no pun intended) into the action seemingly attempting to spice up the action. Given away in the trailer, the giant tongue thing from Jane’s mouth is particularly out of place.

The Professor’s techniques seem to mostly revolve around flashing lights and his entire hypothesis is on thin ice from the outset. We’d forgive this if more of the rest of the action made sense or was as original as the main idea but sadly it isn’t. Coupland forces Jane to channel her issues into an imaginary friend Evie and the regulation scary doll is supplied for Jane to fiddle with.

All of which made us sad because the premise was actually quite promising. Sadly though there are just too few scares and too many plot issues for The Quiet Ones to have any impact. Saddled with an over familiar creepy house, overused BANG jumps and a whole stack of ‘why?’ moments, this is one we’re sure will more likely find a home on DVD. Though for an early glimpse at what we’re sure will be her huge potential, this is probably worth checking out for Olivier Cooke alone. Otherwise you’ll likely spend most of your time wondering just how this experiment can ‘cure the whole of mankind’, why the cameraman is stuck in a creepy shed down the garden when the house is clearly massive and what kind of interrogator allows their clearly mentally unwell subject to attend an interview clutching his camera.

Check out the trailer here.

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