The Quiet Ones
by Hope Madden
Like many other genre fans, I was cautiously and nostalgically optimistic when a Dutch company bought the Brit horror producer Hammer Films with the promise of reviving the brand. Soon came the excellent, stylish remake Let Me In and the surprisingly spooky The Woman in Black. My optimism grew.
The Quiet Ones lets Hammer return to its expansive British dwellings for a period piece where mad science meets Sumerian curses.
OK, well that does sound like a flop, but wait. One of the writers, Oren Moverman, penned the exceptional indie dramas I’m Not There, The Messenger and Rampart. Surely he can take that premise and whip it into shape. I mean, unless he was actually brought in to salvage a muddled mess second draft adaptation of an old, unfilmed screenplay.
Wait, he was?
Well, that second draft surely benefited from the skilled hand of a genre expert, yes?
It’s 1974, and an Oxford professor (Jared Harris) recruits two of his brightest students plus a willing, if nervous, cameraman to work with him on an unorthodox experiment. He intends to pull the negative energy out of Jane (Olivia Cooke – sort of a young Christina Ricci minus the sex appeal). Once he’s pulled it out, he wants to put it into an object – say, a creepy doll – and then throw it away, convinced that this will cure all mental illness everywhere. But Jane’s negative energy has a spirit of its own, and mad science rarely benefits its patients, anyway.
So, yes, The Quiet Ones suffers from a confused screenplay, but also from the uninspired direction of John Pogue (Ghost Ship – ugh).
Pogue misinterprets the old adage that in horror, less is more. This saying holds true only if you’re artfully leaving certain things to the ripe imagination of the viewer. If, instead, you’re wheeling your camera around in a frenzy to avoid having to show what’s going on, or your characters are conveniently pulled into closets just as the horror happens, you may just be a lazy filmmaker.
Not that The Quiet Ones is all bad. All performances are solid, with Harris bringing real zeal to his role. There are a couple of fun scares, too. For a casual consumer of horror, it’s better than about 50% of the material that hits screens, and offers a fun if forgettable way to spend 90 minutes.
But Hammer can do better.