‘The Quiet Ones’ Review

Published 1 year ago by , Updated October 7th, 2014 at 1:33 am,

the quiet ones movie jared harris review The Quiet Ones Review

The Quiet Ones isn’t a terrible film – just a hodgepodge of retro and modern horror elements that isn’t all that memorable.

The Quiet Ones takes place in the year 1974, at Oxford University. Professor Joseph Coupland (Jared Harris) recruits Brian McNeil (Sam Claflin) – a somewhat-religious introvert who’s interested in film – to document his “experiment”: a study that involves a disturbed young woman named Jane Harper (Olivia Cooke), whose troubling behavior seems indicative of someone who is demonically possessed. Coupland believes there is a more scientific explanation: that people like Jane can manifest their internal energy in the world around them. Thus, if they channel their negative energy into an object, it can then be destroyed and they may be “cured.”

When the funding for Coupland’s “experiment” to prove this gets cut, he leads his team of student researchers – Brian included – to a secluded house in the countryside, where they may continue their work. However, as the study pushes Jane closer to the brink of insanity – causing even more violently strange phenomena to occur around her – Brian starts to wonder if there are, in fact, supernatural forces at work here – and whether or not Coupland’s intentions truly are as honorable as he claims they are.

The latest horror offering from the revitalized Hammer Film Productions (Let Me In, The Woman in Black), The Quiet Ones is a pastiche of old-fashioned spooky movie tropes and techniques, blended with more currently popular horror stylistic flourishes. Like the study led by Professor Coupland, it’s full of intriguing concepts and potential, but by the end much of that promise goes unfulfilled – with the film as a whole nearly sliding off the rails in the process.

quiet ones sam claflin olivia cooke The Quiet Ones Review

Olivia Cooke and Sam Claflin in ‘The Quiet Ones’

Large chunks of The Quiet Ones feel like a modern found-footage horror film set in the 1970s, while other scenes rely on minimalistic scary filmmaking tricks. The movie often cuts back and forth between grainy footage captured by Brian and material shot in a traditional style, which allows Quiet Ones to imitate visuals and iconic sequences from vintage horror titles (The Exorcist, which is directly referenced by the characters) as well as contemporary low-budget releases like the Paranormal Activity series – without completely feeling like a flavorless rehash, that is. Unfortunately, this approach causes the sparse uses of CGI to stand out badly; worse, the film only delivers surface-level jolts through easy jump scares (prolonged silence followed by sudden violence/noise) instead of building a palpable atmosphere of dread.

Part of the blame for that also goes to the script, which was co-written by the film’s director, John Pogue (Quarantine 2: Terminal). Tom de Ville’s original Quiet Ones screenplay – supposedly “inspired by true events” – was rewritten by Pogue, as well as Oren Moverman (Rampart) and Craig Rosenberg (The Uninvited); that being the case, this feels like an example of too many cooks spoiling the broth. While the movie’s third act brings its fair share of telegraphed plot twists (which are fairly easy to guess if you know your outdated horror movie tropes), arguably the bigger problem here is that the story elements never form a coherent subtext. There are several cool ideas at work here, but they just never get properly developed (Brian’s test of faith, Coupland’s team having a cult mentality, how “the experiment” parallels occult rituals, etc.).

quiet ones olivia cooke The Quiet Ones Review

Olivia Cooke in ‘The Quiet Ones’

The leading performances by Jared Harris (Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows) and Olivia Cooke (Bates Motel) are, in many ways, more captivating and unnerving than anything else in The Quiet Ones. Harris brings out the layers of Professor Coupland’s personality in a way that frequently leaves you wondering if there’s a sinister menace lurking beneath his sophisticated exterior. Likewise, for most of the film, it’s difficult to pin down whether Cooke as Jane is an innocent, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, or maybe something in between. On the other hand, Sam Claflin as Brian doesn’t leave much of an impression, while the other members of Coupland’s team – boyish Harry (Rory Fleck-Byrne) and free-spirited Krissi (Erin Richards) – never evolve beyond anything more than standard archetypes.

On the whole, though, The Quiet Ones isn’t a terrible film – just a hodgepodge of retro and modern horror elements that isn’t all that memorable. Moviegoers who have a strong hankering for a horror show that’s heavier on creating mood and delivering less-gory scares – elevated partially by some impressive lead acting – may still want to give this one a look in theaters; everyone else, though, is fine saving this one for when they can puzzle over Coupland’s peculiar “experiment” at home.

If you’re still on the fence about The Quiet Ones, check out the trailer below:

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The Quiet Ones is 98 minutes long and Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and terror, sexual content, thematic material, language, and smoking throughout. Now playing in U.S. theaters.

Our Rating:

2 out of 5

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  1. Man, horror has to be the hardest genre to film. I see a ton of horror films and very, very rarely encounter one that is good much less great. I keep hoping that one of these days i’ll be surprised. At least I enjoy the bad ones anyway.

    *Note, I wouldn’t necessarily classify Cabin in the Woods as horror and certainly not Let the Right One In, both excellent films.

    • Grave Encounters was the last truly great horror film I’ve seen, that’s if you don’t count the Amateur Night and Safe Haven segments from the two V/H/S movies (since they’re only 20 minutes long).

      Before Grave Encounters? Probably REC 2, REC, The McPherson Tapes, in that order, from the mid-2000s going back until 1997.

      • I haven’t seen Grave Encounters! I’ll check it out. Agree with you about the V/H/S films. There were 2 or 3 great segments but the films fell flat as a whole. I also enjoyed the REC films. Wouldn’t quite put them in the “great” category but very solid nonetheless.

        Btw, a film that caught me completely off guard was Trick’R’Treat. Very enjoyable.

  2. I agree with you completely on both statements. Insidious and The Conjuring are the only recent ones I recall that are great. And yeah, there is a special, unique genre for Cabin in the Woods.

    • I really enjoyed the Conjuring but I wouldn’t put it in “great” territory. But it was very good and as close to great as we’ve had in a while.

      But, damn, Insidious was one of the worst films I’ve seen in a while. The first act was great, the middle act fine, but the third act was just a flaming pile of mess that I hated with a passion. So disappointing since it had such potential.

      • How is Insidious 2? I watched the first 20 min or so but got bored. Does it pick up?

        • I haven’t seen Insidious 2 and don’t plan on it. The first one was just so disappointing. This year the only horror films I’ve seen in theaters are Oculus and Devil’s Due, both of which are pretty bad, but not quite horrible. Also, I saw Under The Skin which some might mistakenly classify as horror. That movie was extremely intriguing, probably good, but I’m not even sure yet exactly how I feel about it.

          • I heard them talking about Under the Skin a bit on the SR Underground pod. It sounds interesting. I’ll check that one out. I wish they would stop with possession movies or demon babies. They haven’t gotten that kind of movie right since, what? The Exorcist and The Omen, Rosemary’s Baby? All of ‘em are terribly derivative.

        • I thought Insidious 2 was better than the first, but like the original, didn’t seem at all original. Substitute ghosts/demons from the astral plane for normal haunt stories or possessions and these movies are the same. I’ll have to check out Grave Encounters I guess. It’s on Netflix but didn’t look appealing. I was disappointed in The Conjuring after hearing so many good things, but I’ll have to give that one another chance, I think. I love the first two REC movies and hope the fourth will not be crap like the third. I liked both VHS movies, too, because while the vignettes were not all great (and you have to suspend disbelief just for the found-footage gimmick to fly) there were some true scary moments. Trick r’ Treat was cool too, (isn’t that getting a sequel, too?). I like Resolution a lot for the real feeling of dread that it produced. Very original, that one. I know I’m forgetting some stuff I’ve watched recently. I really liked the Evil Dead remake (late, I know).

  3. It’s from the same studio that made ‘the woman in black’ , it was a good old school horror movie.
    I’ll go check it out.