When it came to British horror, Hammer Studios had the monopoly. Not only did they produce genuinely terrifying movies that still haunt today, they were able to expand into television and give frights to Saturday nights. By the end of the seventies, however, Hammer were slowly winding down. With a resurgence of horror flicks sweeping the nation and scaring the tits off anyone who watched them, the studios just couldn’t compare to the likes of The Omen or The Exorcist. When Hammer fell off the map, it was a sad day for horror. Luckily, they were able to put now CEO Simon Oakes in charge, and since then Hammer has been back on the horror mark producing some frights again.
That long introduction leads us right to The Quiet Ones. Talking to the cast and crew on the lead up to this movie, upon initial release, the need to see exactly where Hammer are heading and who they are investing was too strong. The Quiet Ones doesn’t disappoint and nor does it ignite much enthusiasm for the future of Hammer. In fact, it holds a measly 36% on Rotten Tomatoes, receiving mixed reviews from critics and audiences. But there is something meatier to it that may escape your attention on first glance (especially if you spent most of it beneath your cardigan because you are a wuss… I am that wuss).
Set in the early seventies, The Quiet One ticks every scary movie trope imaginable, stopping just a bit short of tits (literally). It’s inspired by 'true events', there is found footage and, of course, scary children. The plot centres on Jane, a troubled teenager who has been passed from house to house thanks to the eerie goings on that follow her. When she falls into the care of Professor Coupland, he indicts her to an experiment to relief the stress of her supernatural goings on. Obviously, it goes a bit pear-shaped for him and his students.
Getting the bad stuff out of the way first (by channelling it into this doll).
On to the good stuff, there are jumps and director John Pogue does well to build them up with added anticipation, growing from small to large effectively well. In fact, it's a genius set up where he gives you a little few bumps in order to really draw you in to the big thrills that sometimes don’t exist. That air of nail biting tension makes everything a little bit more edgy, haunting and scary. Jared Harris excels. But the calibre of acting falls squarely on newcomer Olivia Cooke who is enigmatic as the disturbed Jane, holding the plight, the frights and the delights enticingly well.
The heart of The Quiet Ones has nothing to do with the supernatural. In fact, much like The Curse of Frankenstein, the horror comes from the humanity. And yes, while the story of ghosts and the occult takes a side-line, wasting away like a meat picked bone, the development of the characters is almost genius here. More importantly, it is the descent into madness of Coupland that really smarts here. After all, what is right? Is Coupland trying to help Jane or is he trying to prove his theory? Is he entranced by her and controlled by the forces around her, or is he a slimy pervert? There are so many questions raised here and Pogue, the director, handles them well making the horror more flesh based. Harris is a regular day Cushing, able to be pragmatic but endearing all at the same time as you empathise and hate him all at once. You yearn for the characters (except Chrissy, you’ll hate Chrissy), and really that brings out more shocks.
The Quiet Ones is far from perfect. It’s ok and it will make the more sensitive jump. It wastes a lot of opportunities and rushes the plot towards the end. But it actually feels more Hammer than any of their recent films. It is the reliance of its characters and their pursuit for science that is scary here. While it is no contender to beat the industry to a pulp, it is a certainly a punch in the right direction. Hammer just needs another thwack at the nail to hit it on the head.