Once the mainstay of gothic and bloody horror, Hammer—now known as Hammer Film Productions—has been clawing its way back into the genre since its revival in 2007. Hammer’s latest release is 2014’s The Quiet Ones, which capitalizes on the parapsychology and ghost-hunting trends that once dominated television.
The movie starts off quite promising, with Professor Coupland (Jared Harris, giving a sometimes inspired performance) soliciting a group of students to help him with a special experiment. Coupland believes that there is no such thing as the paranormal or supernatural. Instead, he believes that human physical and mental conditions can in essence manifest the “supernatural” as a type of disease. It is then possible to “cure” such disease by showing the patient that he or she is responsible for its creation.
Joining Coupland on this experimental journey are Kristina Dalton (long-legged Erin Richards) and Harry Abrams (Rory Fleck-Byrne), as well as the patient, Jane Harper (Olivia Cooke). Recruiting to document the whole event is film student Brian McNeil (Sam Claflin). Coupland soon aptly demonstrates that Jane is capable of producing supernatural phenomena, but because his tactics are bizarre and in some instances questionable, Oxford soon pulls his funding. Undaunted, Coupland carries on the experiment on his own.
Jane eventually harnesses enough energy to create a “ghost” she calls “Evey,” which she says is based on an infant, doll-like creature. Seizing on this imagery, Coupland attempts to have Jane manifest the spirit so that she can place it into a physical doll, trapping it so that it can be eliminated by destroying the doll. However, Evey becomes increasingly powerful and menacing, even influencing the other students. Disturbed by such events, Brian launches his own investigation into Jane and Evey, where he discovers that Jane may be possess by an ancient Sumerian entity (a demon, in modern parlance). Indeed, it turns out that Evey was real—she was a young girl with clairvoyant abilities. Further, a Satanic cult took advantage of Evey to summon their “idol” into the world of the living.
The movie’s final reel has Brian clashing with Coupland, who refuses to acknowledge that his theory may in fact be wrong. His stubbornness leads to a full manifestation of Evey, Jane’s real identity, who has been cursed to relive her death over and over. The team implodes internally, with only Brian managing to survive the entire ordeal. But it turns out that Brian is not longer alone, as he is now the new Evey.
Written by Craig Rosenberg, John Pogue, Oren Moverman, and Tome de Ville (who provided the original story) and directed by John Pogue, The Quiet Ones is a good, quality film that succumbs to its own devices, principally the trappings of the horror genre itself. The screenplay is tight and provides the usual scares, the direction is good, and the actors all turn in solid performances. The film’s principal drive is supernatural horror, although the overarching ideas work up to a nice, terror-driven coda that will make most horror fans grin.
The principal problem with The Quiet Ones is that its source material would have made for an even more frightening and satisfying experience. The story is based upon what is known as “The Philip Experiment,” which took placed in 1972. Supposedly, a group of Canadian parapsychologists attempted to create a ghost, thereby proving that such apparitions are merely energetic creations derived from human imagination, will, and the ability to visualize. The group succeeded in creating such an entity, which they called Philip Aylesford. They even documented some of Philip’s antics, such as a moving table (no one was near it when it moved on several occasions). The question regarding this experiment was never answered, as the group could not prove that the entity producing such phenomena was of their own creation or a manifestation of a spirit who took on the guise of Philip Aylesford to fool the experimenters (demons are, after all, adept liars).
Had The Quiet Ones remained more faithful to the original source material rather than simply becoming another “possession movie,” I believe it would have become a more successfully film, particularly with hardcore horror fans. The questions left by “The Philip Experiment” are excellent fodder for a horror film, and in the hands of a gifted screenwriter and director would make for a horrifying experience.
The Quiet Ones joins the list of possession films, many of which have fallen into obscurity, given that The Exorcist remains impossible to overcome. Horror fans will find the film a good distraction and will find the first half of the film particularly engaging. However, once the possession clichés start, the film loses much of its luster, until the coda, at which point the film redeems itself a little.