Directed by John Pogue
Written by Craig Rosenberg, Oren Moverman, John Pogue and Tom de Ville
Starring Jared Harris, Sam Claflin, Erin Richards, Rory Fleck-Byrne, Olivia Cooke and Laurie Calvert.
Produced by Exclusive Media Group, Hammer Film Productions and Traveling Picture Show Company (TPSC)
Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez really started something in 1999. Before their genre-bending debut, The Blair Witch Project, separated horror fans left and right found footage films were unheard of. Horror was about third person scares, static cameras, the occasional dolly. The fourth wall was seldom if ever broken, unless a comical antihero gave a knowing wink to the camera. However, after Blair Witch, the imitations were inevitable. Many gritty, low-budget features followed and utilized the found footage effect. Some were excellent, some not so much. One thing was clear though: The camera was no longer restricted. It could be used to make horror fresh and new. The found footage sub-genre was born.
Fifteen years later; found footage is old news. The horror movie, for all the critics and doubters, likes to evolve. Despite this, people are still obsessed with the found footage gimmick. A glut of these movies now exist on various DVD shelves. Some use an A-B-C layout. And some break the boundaries. The Quiet Ones is one such film that takes this gimmick and utilizes it in a way rarely seen; it intersperses it between static camera shots to create a horrific film that builds the suspense and develops the characters before…well, falling a little flat. More on that later.
Professor Joseph Coupland (a grizzled Jared Harris) is a university professor with an interest in the abnormal. Determined to debunk supernatural phenomena, he decides to conduct experiments on a mysterious girl, Jane (Olivia Cooke in a creepy role). Joined by his students (solid efforts by Sam Clafin, Erin Richards and Rory Fleck-Byrne), he locks Jane in a room, plays loud rock music to deny her sleep and generally treats her like a human lab rat. Within weeks, funding is pulled, they’ve moved to an isolated house in the country and weird things begin to happen. Moral code and human feelings come into play and the motivations begin to blur…which is when Jane starts to become more aggressive. It seems the professor might be hiding something…and might not be as correct as first thought.
Now, so far, so possession movie 101. The possessed and hand held cameras seem to walk hand-in-hand through modern cinema. However, The Quiet Ones has one thing that shines from below its dark, morbid exterior: character. Yes, the characters in the film – even Jane – are developed, given a little back story and mingled together. Thankfully, the directors decide to keep the cast minimal, enabling them to build a chemistry that makes the tensions and interactions between them feel realistic. When they argue, you pay attention. They characters aren’t hollow and they don’t serve as mere cannon fodder. They are real people. Even the budding love story between Jane and suffering cameraman, Brian, doesn’t feel forced. Is it manipulation on Jane’s part; a suffering, lonely girl who hates her curse? Or is it real? You’ll stick around to find out. As Coupland begins to lose control of his project, things unravel and secrets are revealed. Once the demons start to rear their ugly head via skin brandings, burning hands and creepy dolls, you’ll feel invested. At first…
That’s the one problem with The Quiet Ones. We’ve seen it all before. Possession is overdone in cinema, to an extent where you really do feel you’re walking a worn path. A solid horror soon segues into by-the-numbers territory. Jump scares become predictable and exhausting, the CGI is surprisingly shoddy and the twists and turns a bit predictable. By the time the finale comes along, the film decides to throw in a couple of savage scenes and cereal box scares – in an attempt to save the movie. Depending on your attention span, it may keep you hooked, but the tension is all but gone by this point. And that’s a shame because, for the first hour, suspense is slowly but consistently boiling beneath the surface. Once the film loses its drive, it slows to a halt and you’ll be hard pressed to keep watching. In all honesty, the finale is different and original in places but it’s a bit too late by this point.
Verdict: A solid 3 out of 5. I’ve seen a few possession films in my time and I enjoy the originality (yes, it still exists) that the found footage view possesses. REC, Blair Witch and Chernobyl Diaries are three great examples of this. The Quiet Ones uses normal camera angles, flicking to first person when the cameraman picks up his tools. Another British horror, The Borderlands, did this extremely well, too. It’s about skill and the film makers have used their creative brain here. Yes, the film fades at the end but until that point, this is a solid, effective horror. Tension, frights, the occasional legitimate jump out of your seat moment and character driven plot propel you along to a familiar, overdone ending. However, if you’re a horror fan, this won’t irk you too much. The Quiet Ones is worth a rent…just don’t expect it to possess you too deeply.
Check out this trailer for THE QUIET ONES: