The Quiet Ones (2014)

Starring: Jared Harris, Sam Claflin, Olivia Cooke, Erin Richards, Rory Fleck-Byrne

Directed by: John Pogue

Rating: 1 2 3

Sam Claflin as Brian in The Quiet OnesAw, Hammer, you gotta luv 'em. Not content with scaring the bejesus out of a generation of Harry Potter addicts with The Woman in Black, they've now set their sights on Hunger Games fans, casting Catching Fire's handsome Sam Claflin as naïve, slightly dense but good-hearted film maker Brian, hired by suave Oxford professor Joseph Coupland (Jared Harris) to document a ground-breaking experiment to 'cure' a mentally ill patient apparently possessed by a poltergeist-like force called Evie.

For the woodcut prints of devils at the start to the now almost mandatory archive photos of the real protagonists on which the story is based during the credits, The Quiet Ones is all a bit 'seen it before'. But despite clichéd scenes featuring antiquated brain monitoring machines, creepy toys in a creepy attic in a creepy house (explored during a power cut – when else?) and the obligatory library visit to look up pictures of demons, there's still something pleasing about this solid British horror movie.

The year is 1974 (so no mobiles, CCTV or inconvenient health and safety regulations to worry about). It's a year since the release of The Exorcist (and the film's one joke is a cheeky reference to spinning heads) yet clearly Professor Coupland has learned nothing from the movie: he's convinced that there are no such things as demons and angels and supernatural events can all be explained through a batty mix of physics and psychoanalysis.

Jared Harris and Olivia Cooke are doctor and patient in The Quiet Ones

But you don't need a degree in psychology (or indeed theology) to realise that there's something seriously wrong with patient Jane Harper (Olivia Cooke). Certainly she has all the hallmarks of a victim of demonic possession: dark, hollow eyes, sallow skin, long black greasy hair, ugly doll sideckick – although to a modern audience she can't possibly be possessed, as she never once bends over backwards or crawls across the ceiling...

However, unlike your run-of-the-mill US multiplex horror fodder (Insidious, The Possession, The Devil Inside, et al) there's a geniune attempt made at characterisation here, meaning we are actually invested in the (albeit somewhat inevitable) outcome. And while there's definitely an over-reliance on pointless jump scares, there are some genuinely tense moments – it's just a shame these aren't maintained, tending to cut away too quickly to a 'phew' shot of the house in daylight the following morning, and never approaching the sustained terror of The Exorcist. Not that any of this bothered the row of screaming teenage girls in front of me, who were literally leaping into each others' laps. Hey – result!

The Quiet Ones is not as deft, clever or lovingly crafted as The Woman in Black, but it's nevertheless heartfelt, refreshingly free of CGI (aside from one rather regrettable scene that should really have been cut) and features great performances from Harris and Cooke as controlling, Svengali-like doctor and seemingly brainwashed patient. A success as a horror movie, then, but a quiet one.

  • Share on Tumblr