THE QUIET ONES is an excellent horror movie.
Which is why I’m posting this follow-up review to the CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT review by L.L. Soares and myself earlier this week at cinemaknifefight.com, because quality horror movies are a rare breed these days, so when I encounter an intelligent well-made horror flick, I want to get the word out.
Its tale of a college professor who employs several of his students to help him with an experiment, as he attempts to a cure a young woman who has been accused of being possessed by an evil spirit by proving to her that it’s all in her own mind, is a thought-provoking chiller that is boasted by a solid script, terrific acting, and a bang-up directing job; and it’s scary to boot!
I was eager to see this one because it’s the latest film produced by England’s Hammer Films, as Hammer continues its recent comeback in the horror business. And while they still haven’t had a huge hit on their hands yet, they have been releasing some quality movies, films like LET ME IN (2010) and THE WOMAN IN BLACK (2012).
In THE QUIET ONES, Professor Joseph Coupland (Jared Harris) gathers some students to help him with his lifelong work, which is, to prove that the supernatural can all be explained away, and if he can succeed in curing one person believed to be possessed of the supernatural, by scientific means, then he could prove once and for all that it’s not ghosts and demons haunting people, but their own psychoses.
Helping the good professor is an impressionable and likable young cameraman, Brian (Sam Claflin), and it’s his job to document the experiment. Coupland is also assisted by young Krissi (Erin Ricards) and Harry (Rory Fleck-Byrne) as they try to cure the possessed young woman, Jane (Olivia Cooke), who is kept locked away in a room so she can’t hurt herself or them.
The professor’s main method of curing Jane is to give her a doll, a doll in which he wants her alter ego to enter. He encourages Jane to call out the inner demon that is haunting her, and to send it into the doll, and once she has done that, she will be cured. Harry has set up various devices to record the psychosomatic energy which will prove that this transference is all of Jane’s doing, and nothing to do with ghosts or demons.
Of course, very strange things begin to happen, things that the professor has difficulty explaining, and so his young team begins to question both his uncharacteristic methods, which seem to be putting Jane at risk, and his theory that ghosts don’t exist. To them, Jane seems very possessed. As the professor fights to keep his team together and to cure Jane, things grow more and more deadly for everyone involved.
I really liked THE QUIET ONES, much more than I expected to. Sure, it could be that I was just overly excited about seeing another Hammer Film on the big screen, but I don’t think so. This is a very good horror movie.
By far, my favorite part of this one was its story. I just found it so refreshing in light of the recent films we’ve been deluged with over the last few years showing us over-the-top dramatic hauntings and possessions by ghosts and demons with characters who accepted these things so easily. Here, we have in Professor Coupland, a character who says no, that these things aren’t supernatural, that they can all be explained by science, and that with science, people suspected of being possessed can be cured.
So, I give high marks to the screenplay by Craig Rosenberg, Oren Moverman, and director John Pogue, which was based on a screenplay by Tom de Ville.
It’s interesting that Coupland’s method of curing Jane also steers away from the traditional psychiatric methods. Coupland attacks the problem using physical science. He wants Jane to manifest her inner voice into something physical that she can expunge into another object, thus purging it from her body and in effect curing her. I’m not saying I believe in all this—it certainly sounds ridiculous at times—but it was different, and for a slow-moving movie, I was never bored because I was so interested in what was going on.
I also liked how the other characters doubted things throughout. Eventually, they think Coupland is wrong, and that Jane really is possessed by an evil spirit, but earlier, Brian wonders if he’s being set up because he’s the gullible cameraman, and he accuses Krissi and Harry of being in on it with the professor. There’s a lot going on in this movie, and I liked every bit of it.
THE QUIET ONES is based on a true story which occurred in the 1970s, where a college professor conducted a similar experiment. As such, this movie takes place in the 1970s at Oxford University, and it does a nice job capturing the feel of the decade.
Director John Pogue not only captures the feel of the 1970s but also the feel of movies made in the 1960s and 70s. It’s no surprise then that it reminded me of films like THE HAUNTING (1963) and THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE (1973). The style here is offbeat and not at all by the numbers, which I liked. It played a lot like an independent film. Scenes sometimes seem to end right in the middle of things, while other times you’re not quite sure why you’re watching this particular scene at this moment in time.
It also captures the strong feeling of claustrophobia, as the characters are all holed up in that one house, and Jane is confined to that one room.
This is not a gory movie at all, and yet I found it unnerving and scary. It really got under my skin. There’s also a neat sequence towards the end when the power goes out and Jane disappears, and they’re all searching for her in the darkened house, and they’re running around in a panic that I thought was particularly scary.
I liked the way the characters interacted with each other. Sometimes they don’t trust each other, while other times they have strong feelings of attraction towards each other, which makes sense since they’re together in the same house for an extended period of time, and so when they sleep with each other, it comes off as genuine, not just for the sake of the movie.
The cast is solid. Jared Harris is excellent as Professor Coupland. He’s calm, cool, and authoritative throughout. I’ve seen Harris in a bunch of movies, but I don’t think I’ve enjoyed him more than I did here in this movie.
Sam Claflin makes for a very likable cameraman Brian, and he’s the character the audience probably most identifies with, since he seems to be the voice of reason. He’s also the one who questions the proceedings the most and worries about the safety of Jane.
Both Erin Richards and Rory Fleck-Byrne are adequate in their roles as the other two members of the professor’s team, Krissi and Harry.
And Olivia Cooke, from TV’s BATES MOTEL, is rather creepy and unnerving as Jane, the girl who may or may not be possessed. Cooke is excellent here, and although I prefer her performance on BATES MOTEL, she’s still very effective as Jane, as she provides a good mix of sympathy and chills. Like Brian in the movie, we’re never quite sure what to make of her: should we feel sorry for her and want to help her, or should we run for our lives as quickly as we can?
The weakest link of this one is probably its title. THE QUIET ONES sounds like a period piece drama or a love story about mimes. It certainly doesn’t sound like a horror movie. I’m also still not sure what it refers to. Nobody in the movie is all that quiet, except for Brian the cameraman, but I don’t think the title refers to him. Then again, maybe it does!
I also wasn’t completely sold on the ending, which I found a bit confusing and not nearly as tight as the rest of the movie.
A satisfying ending would have made this one an instant classic. The whole film is so original, I really expected an original ending—something that fit with the rest of the movie. But the ending seems almost tacked on, like “this is how we should end a horror movie” instead of just ending the story naturally and letting the audience digest it. With a cold and determined character like Professor Coupland, there are any number of ways that this film could have ended on a sinister note, and remain consistent with all that came before it. Oh well.
But both of these points are minor matters. I loved THE QUIET ONES. I can see how it might not be for everyone. It’s slow-paced, quirky, and not by the numbers, but it is one eerie film that held my interest from beginning to end.
I highly recommend it and encourage people to get out and see it before it leaves the theater.