Jared Harris leads a largely unknown cast in this horror/thriller that’s based on actual events. With an audience so desensitized, it’s hard for any film in this genre to stay fresh and offer up any surprises; usually that means the film descends into clichés, but The Quiet Ones benefits from not trying too hard. With a talented young cast it may at the very least spark some earnest debate about events portrayed.
It may be of interest to some that this film was actually completed in 2012 and sat around for a while waiting to be released – perhaps producers were waiting for this moment which (Superhero films aside) feels like a quiet period with few major releases. These genre films never make huge amounts of money, so timing is always crucial.
In a secluded estate outside London, Professor Joseph Coupland and a group of university students conduct an experiment on a young woman named Jane Harper. She’s reputed to be haunted by, or possessed, or even controlling some dark force, and the Professor has vowed to help ‘cure’ her by ‘summoning’ whatever darkness is within her via a few scientific séance’s.
To put you at ease, this is not a slasher film. It’s more of an intellectual’s horror movie that may leave one wondering what the source of all evil really is.
The Bottom Line
Knowing very little of this film perhaps helped my cause because once you hear anything about a film of this nature, your mind immediately conjures some preconceived notions. Those notions are of course inspired by a slew of second rate movies that rely on the same device to elicit some thrill in the audience, and although The Quiet Ones is not immune to these elements, it benefits from director John Pogue focussing on telling the larger story.
What’s also a relief is that although the small cast, led by the seasoned Jared Harris, is largely still unknown, they are talented individuals with budding careers who render believable performances – led by Erin Richards and Sam Claflin (Finnick in Hunger Games) playing the impressionable but noble cameraman recruited to record the experiment. So, from a purely artistic perspective this film doesn’t lack with top-notch sound and cinematography.
Inevitably it all comes down to the big reveal though. I must say that I was only mildly invested in the characters; the overwhelming factor that draws you in is undoubtedly the intrigue. And it’s here where the individual will either like it or dismiss it. We critics had a small debate about it after the film, particularly surrounding the origin of all evil and whether there is a discernible divide between natural evil and the supernatural. This of course comes down to personal belief and interpretation – bearing in mind this film is inspired by a true story – but despite all that, I felt the prevailing lesson hanging over the film like a shadow is: ‘when you play with fire you will get burned’.
Going by my own stance, the final reveal wasn’t all that surprising (and I did question a lot of decisions made by the characters), but the whole exercise somehow didn’t feel wasted because the facts carry a bit of weight and render the film, regardless of personal beliefs, still rather interesting. In a way, what it all boils down to is in what Prof. Coupland puts to his students in the beginning of the film in one of his lectures – questioning, from the outset, if you believe in God, the devil, ghosts or the supernatural in general.
So, it may not provide many chills or surprises and does move along at its own steady pace, but it still remains watchable. For a tired genre, lacking in ingenuity (and even when there is some, its usually over-hyped and then flogged for all its worth, a la Paranormal Activity) The Quiet Ones somehow manages to stand on its own. At the very least, it’s not forgettable, even if that’s mostly thanks to the retro 70’s aesthetic.