Tuesday, 26 August 2014

MOVIE: The Quiet Ones (2014)

UK/US 2014, 98m, Exclusive/Hammer/Travelling Picture Show Company
Blu-Ray: Lionsgate (UK), Cert 15.

England, 1974. An Oxford University lecturer enlists the assistance of some students, hoping to cure a girl of what appears to be a form of possession, which the professor refutes. In attempting to disprove dark forces, he unwittingly unleashes them...

The 21st Century model of Hammer follow up the roaring success of the admittedly flawed but actually pretty good The Woman In Black with a change in period for this tale of possible possession set in the early 1970's.

You can tell it's the 70's because Slade and T.Rex are on the radio (although an anachronistic cover of Hawkwind's Silver Machine blows the gaffe somewhat). They also appear on the soundtrack in VERY LOUD BURSTS. Much as I love the tones of Noddy Holder, there is a limit.

You can also tell it's the 70's because everyone seems to smoke a lot (in university lectures!), and has dodgy fashion sense. At least the makers stop short of having the cast bouncing around on Spacehoppers and eating Spangles, but you get the general idea. Meanwhile, Erin Richards' get-up of flowery dress and cigarette holder may have been striking on Carnaby Street for a short period in 1967, but in 1974? Really?

The story must have looked promising on paper, and it's hard to work out how it could have gone so wrong in reaching the screen. I personally suspect a rewrite too many might be partially responsible. Then, there's the casting. You can't help feeling that the actors were chosen to improve chances of US distribution, rather than for any actual suitability for the roles. I fear the dreaded "demographic research" has been at work again. I can see the marketing people saying "Hey, Mad Men is popular, and the kids love The Hunger Games, let's just cast someone from each flick. We can't lose!"

Indeed... This transatlantic casting trick may have helped the company in making b-features in the 1950's, but it looks all too calculated these days. The usually reliable Jared Harris hams it up, whilst Sam Claflin just doesn't convince as the nominal hero. Only Olivia Cooke as the tormented Jane Harper really makes a mark.

The scares frequently fail to register, mainly because you'll anticipate any shock moments a good couple of seconds before they happen (the irritating, dischordant sounds cranked up to 11 really don't help). Dress it up all you like, but regardless of how retro you make it appear, that found footage look is really wearing thin now, and the other cliches never stop. Despite the very nicely rendered period trappings, it all falls rather flat.

The Quiet Ones strives to emulate the likes of 70's TV drama The Stone Tape and its ilk, whilst failing to get a grip on what made such productions tick. Funnily enough, The Stone Tape was directed by Hammer alumnus Peter Sasdy. It's a pity that nobody involved with this disappointing endeavour asked him for some pointers...

It's not the worst film you will see this year - beautifully made from a visual and technical point of view, the cinematography and colour palette are quite reminiscent of the kind of film stock used in the period. The real problem is that The Quiet Ones falls woefully short of the high standards you should expect from the Hammer brand, whose current owners would do well to remember that they can't trade on goodwill from fans forever...


If you want to see what the film was supposedly inspired by (VERY loosely, I might add), find out more here.

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