If you’re a horror movie fan, there’s no way you haven’t heard of the UK production company Hammer Films. Back in the day, Hammer was the bomb– the most popular supplier of horror movies from the mid 50s to the 1970s. Fans ate up their gothic gems, like 1958’s The Horror of Dracula starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. After stopping production in the mid 80s, new investors only recently dragged Hammer out of storage with 2010’s Let Me In, 2011’s The Resident and 2012’s The Woman in Black.
It’s Hammer’s long history that caused me to brave a movie theater full of loud fans (half my age) to see The Quiet Ones. I would’ve gotten pumped too… But sadly, the film does little to bring the production house back to its glory days.
The Quiet One’s plot is thin enough to be threadbare, with the mythology holding water about as well. In 1974, obsessed professor Joseph Coupland (Jared Harris) experiments on an extremely troubled orphan named Jane Harper (Olivia Cooke)– all to prove that paranormal activity can be traced to mental illness.
Cooke is surprisingly interesting in a role that could have easily devolved into nothing more than weepy, blank stares. Harris also plays the mad scientist with flair– deliciously exhaling cigarette smoke with an evil grin. But that’s where the fun ends– as most of their co-stars are about as intriguing as the cardboard their characters appear to be cut from. (Hard to blame the actors though– since Coupland and Harper’s characters are the only ones to get any sort of backstory.)
On the plus side, 21st Century production values are higher than the original low-budget Hammer classics. The “found footage” scattered throughout the film (using a traditional omniscient point of view) are visually interesting and have an appropriately vintage feel. There’s even a cool scene where Dr Coupland doses Jane with an unnamed drug, sits her in front of a rotating oscillating light and– I swear– I just about hallucinated right along with her. The soundtrack was also subtle and eerie, adding a fantastic creep factor… At least when the filmmakers didn’t insist on blasting 70s rock at Jane to keep her– and, I assume, the audience– awake.
Unfortunately, there’s not much else to enjoy here. The scares are almost entirely composed of the “BOO!” variety, and don’t even kick in until near the end. Another bummer: Since the film’s rated PG-13, there wasn’t any of the gore or nudity I tend to associate with Hammer films. A couple of stand-out performances and a few scary moments– that’s it.
Move along– this is not the horror film you are looking for.