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New Release Review - The Quiet Ones

A student cameraman is hired to document an experiment involving a girl who appears to be possessed.



Directed by: John Pogue
Starring: Jared Harris, Sam Claflin, Olivia Cooke, Erin Richards




Oxford Professor Joseph Coupland (Harris) is determined to disprove the existence of supernatural forces by creating a poltergeist from negative human energy. Taking three of his students, including Brian (Claflin), whose job is to document proceedings with his camera, to a remote house, Coupland begins a controversial experiment, unapproved by his superiors at the University. Coupland's guinea pig is Jane, a disturbed teenage girl who claims to be possessed by a malevolent spirit named Evie. As Jane's behavior becomes more inexplicable, and increasingly dangerous, the students begin to doubt the credibility of their Professor's theory.
The Quiet Ones, the latest offering from the revived Hammer studio, opens with a bang, or rather a clap. Through the lens of his camera, we witness student cameraman Brian slam his palms together in lieu of a clapperboard. This moment sets up the tone of director John Pogue's film, but it also signifies all that's wrong with the movie, and indeed with contemporary horror cinema as a whole.
The sound of Brian's hand clap is amped up to an unnatural degree, solely to provide a shock to our senses. It's horror film-making at its laziest. The opening titles have just rolled and the film has done nothing yet to put us on edge. If Pogue believes a loud noise is enough to scare us he's sorely mistaken. 
The term "jump scare" is often bandied around incorrectly, as though such a thing were a negative. As the phrase suggests, it scares us, so it means the film is doing its job correctly. Yet what most of today's horror movies give us aren't jump scares at all, rather "jump shocks". To create a jump scare, the film-maker needs to have already set their audience on edge by creating a nervous anticipation. A jump shock, however, requires no prior manipulation of the viewer; the film-maker merely has to hit you with something unexpected. The laziest film-makers simply use a loud noise, something Pogue is guilty of countless times throughout his tension free film.
This technique is the exact opposite of what cinema is all about. It requires no visual imagination on the film-maker's part, just the ability to quickly turn a volume knob in a clockwise direction. A genuine horror director can terrify you with the volume turned off. Pogue, however, seems more suited to a career in radio. Such is his lack of confidence in his ability to create scares visually, the soundtrack often creates the shock seconds before we see it. Other times we simply hear a loud noise without actually seeing anything. This is cinema for the blind.
The seventies setting resembles not the original films of Hammer, but rather those made by their less illustrious rivals, movies featuring uptight tweed clad scientists and horny mini-skirted dollybirds that were never quite as fun as their posters suggested. 
Apart from its location, which bears an uncanny resemblance to 1951 Down Place, the iconic site of countless classic Hammer films, there's nothing here to satisfy Hammer purists. With only The Woman in Black (another movie guilty of being high on shocks yet low on scares) coming anywhere close to the style of Gothic horror the studio made its name with, it seems Hammer is determined to distance itself from its celebrated past. It's a shame, as there currently exists an abundance of quality British acting talent (Harris's performance is this movie's only real plus) that could be called upon. Benedict Cumberbatch as Van Helsing anyone?
3/10


Eric Hillis

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