Look out for The Arrow's review this weekend.
PLOT: A professor and three students investigate the strange phenomena surrounding a young woman who might be haunted by a sinister spirit, but also might have untapped psychic abilities.
REVIEW: The jump scare is alive and well in THE QUIET ONES, the latest supernatural thriller from resurgent British scare factory Hammer Films. Director John Pogue uses jolts like another filmmaker might use a piece of music or a supporting actor, and people with sensitive ears would do well to stay away. It's an effective device, albeit one overused on modern horror movies; it can often indicate that the movie is insecure about its ability to create genuine atmosphere and suspense. In the case of The Quiet Ones, the atmosphere is there, but the story comes up a bit lacking.
The story in question deals with an obsessive professor named Coupland's (Jared Harris) insistence that a tortured young woman (Olivia Cooke), who on the surface appears to be haunted or possessed, is actually the victim of her own paranormal activities. He gathers two of his star students (Erin Richards, Rory Fleck-Byrne) and a camera operator named Brian (Sam Claflin) to document his experiments on the girl, which include attempting to prod her psychic abilities out with sleep deprivation and hypnosis. Naturally, the whole group is subjected to all manner of freaky phenomena, though like true horror movie characters refuse to leave the premises in the face of increasingly dangerous occurrences.
The movie has a tendency to be redundant; a pattern soon emerges that involves Dr. Coupland's quietly beginning an interrogation, Brian documenting it (we often see the events through his 16mm camera), things are drawn out to a breaking point, then a loud noise stuns the silence, everyone flips out, things quiet down again… repeat. It often feels like the film is spinning its wheels, stretching out thin narrative with several unnecessary scenes only there to deliver another padded out scare sequence.
But then again, this is a horror movie, and the target audience should enjoy the jolts. Every possible bang, crash and scream is utilized to disrupt the tension and send the audience into fits of shocked giggles. (You know how it is: you gasp, then you laugh at yourself for gasping.) It's fun for a while, but it eventually gets exhausting. While Pogue is certainly adept at provoking the necessary reaction from these frights, I eventually felt like a grumpy old man who wants all that loud noise turned down.
Luckily, Pogue has a very capable team at his disposal, in front of and behind the camera, making THE QUIET ONES a watchable diversion despite its less than thought-provoking storyline. The cast is actually terrific, with Harris and Cooke leading the way with strong, emotional performances. The cinematography by Matyas Erdely is appropriately moody and Matt Gant's production design evokes the classic ghost horror movies of Hammer's past. It's not quite as successful as Hammer's last production, THE WOMAN IN BLACK, which genuinely has an eerie, unsettling personality, but it continues an encouraging resurgence for Hammer, which knows how to deliver off a chill or two.