Paying homage in style and theme to the vintage horror movies of the 1970s, "The Quiet Ones" is the latest stylish shocker from Hammer, the recently reactivated classic U.K. studio imprint.
3 (out of five stars)
Director: John Pogue
Cast: Jared Harris, Sam Claflin, Olivia Cooke, Erin Richards, Rory Fleck-Byrne
Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and terror, sexual content, thematic material, language, and smoking throughout
Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes
Mixing creaky haunted-house and exorcism tropes with a nod to the contemporary found-footage subgenre, the film relies on high production values and sense-battering shock tactics to make up for wooden performances and an illogical, silly script.
The sophomore feature of Washington-born screenwriter-turned-director John Pogue, "The Quiet Ones" boasts the usual vague claims to be "inspired by actual events." It draws very loosely on the "Philips Experiment" of 1972, in which a group of Toronto academic researchers tried to prove that ghosts and poltergeists are constructs of the human mind. Needless to say, the original trials did not involve satanic cults, paranormal love triangles or high body counts.
Set in 1974, the film stars "Mad Men" veteran Jared Harris as Joseph Coupland, an Oxford University psychology professor with highly unorthodox methods. Coupland hires amateur cameraman Brian McNeil ("Hunger Games" regular Sam Claflin) to document his controversial experiments on Jane Harper (Olivia Cooke), a mentally unstable young woman who appears to be possessed by a diabolical alter ego named Evey. The professor believes Jane is creating Evey purely through her own telekinetic powers, and thus could hold the key to curing mental illness.
"The Quiet Ones" is not very original, nor even especially scary, and its title ultimately proves as meaningless as its plot. Creaky and predictable, it should serve as comfort food for fans of old-school horror.