After achieving relative recent success with 2010’s Let Me In (directed by Matt Reeves) and 2012’s Victorian frightener The Woman in Black, the recently revived Hammer return to UK screens with The Quiet Ones (2014), a stylish and ably acted yet ultimately lacklustre psychological horror that’s as predictable as it is almost entirely devoid of bona fide scares. Mad Men star Jared Harris heads up the cast as Joseph Coupland, a paranormal expert who believes he can isolate and eradicate negative energy from troubled teen case Jane (Olivia Cooke). The only problem is that his funding has been cut off, leaving him with little choice but to recruit pupils from his lecture group to assist him in his work.
With the help of eager-to-impress students Harry (Rory Fleck-Byrne) and Krissi (Erin Richards) and cameraman Brian (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’s Sam Claflin), Joseph relocates the study to a suitably spooky Georgian house in the middle of nowhere, where his controversial methods soon raise questions with Brian, Harry and Krissi, and Jane is driven to the brink of insanity, causing all manner of supernatural events to transpire. With its beautifully executed 1970s setting and old fashioned tone that harks back to the films of Hammer’s prime, The Quiet Ones succeeds in constructing an unnerving sense of tension and terror through Matyas Erdely’s sharp cinematography and Lucas Vidal’s moody score, yet fails miserably to back that up with a worthwhile narrative.
The film’s script, with contributions from no less than four screenwriters, is flimsy and cluttered, with interesting threads (Joseph’s unbridled dedication and Brian’s ever-increasing feelings of protectiveness towards Jane) that could have made the film infinitely more compelling had they been allowed a little extra room to breathe. Instead, they’re cast aside in favour of an over-reliance on shock tactics and twists and turns that can be seen a mile off. In terms of performances, it’s only really Harris and Cooke who are able to command their respective characters in ways that patch over the scripts shortcomings, leaving Claflin, Rory Fleck-Byrne and Richards lingering awkwardly in the background. But none of The Quiet Ones strengths are ever greater than its weaknesses, meaning the film does what it does (and not very good, for that matter) for a brisk 98-minute runtime, before fading into a distant memory, never to be thought of again.