John Pogue‘s The Quiet Ones is a refreshing slow-burn horror film that focuses more on characters versus jump scares. Jared Harris leads the hearty cast with a character that’s almost scarier than the film’s scares itself and reminds us that good horror doesn’t mean blood and gore, but well-planned scares, a unique and unsettling story and atmosphere. The Quiet Ones isn’t the best or even the most original horror film to drop into theaters as of late, but it’s a refreshingly good one that focuses on the film’s strengths and not so much on its weaknesses.
Professor Joseph Coupland (Jared Harris) and his team of bright and curious young students are conducting an experiment on a terrified young woman (Olivia Cooke) named Jane. Jane is somehow connected to an unexplainable dark force and Joseph and his team are doing their best to discover the truth through the means of science and logic. What they find is something that’s darker than anyone expected.
The Quiet Ones starts off immediately impressing, with its hard focus on science and reality versus the traditional demonic and possession angle that most horror films limply use as a starting point. Instead of spooking and scaring with crosses and CGI ghosts, The Quiet Ones makes you jump back a few feet with its smart and mostly restrained use of found footage, plus its ability to rely and focus on creating atmosphere and tension, not just among its characters, but within its setting and location too.
Director John Pogue wisely takes advantage of veteran actor Jared Harris, allowing us to cling onto a character that’s just as dark and mysterious as the film’s own story, which is mostly your typical affair surrounding an innocent young girl with a troubled past and a current case of the weirdly possessed.
Sure, The Quiet Ones follows many routine horror movie tropes, but it occasionally ventures off into uncharted territory and when it does it becomes something really good and something that gets by on watching its characters talk and breakdown the situations that they are surrounded with. The scares come rolling after they dig deeper and deeper, until eventually things reach the point of no return, where The Quiet One sacrifices its own originality for an ending that feels compact and more in line with the recent wave of horror films.
It’s also worth mentioning that this is a Hammer Production, meaning that the slow-burn approach and heavy atmosphere shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. Hammer films tend to lean more on the lingering unknown and the creepy and spooky angles versus the in-your-face jump scare approach. This doesn’t mean that they don’t fall for the jump-scares, but they’re usually more fitting and properly timed in a Hammer production.
The film’s only real problems are when it tries too hard to become just like every other horror movie out there. The ending especially echoes this, ruining a lot of the slow build for something that feels more rushed than satisfying. Also, the found-footage angle of the film is mostly pointless and doesn’t make things any more scary or authentic. Though, Pogue does his best to keep those moments to a minimum and instead focus on filming the movie traditionally, which is where things really shine, because he’s allowed to make use of his big and empty sets.
The Quiet Ones is a tough film to recommend, simply because it never really comes to full realization of what kind of film it is and what kind of film that it could have been. It settles for something in the middle, which as an end product is more than what most horror movie-goers are asking for these days, which is why I’d consider it something that’s occasionally refreshing, if not always scary in some sense. The ideas themselves are original, but the execution gets lazy and unfocused as things start to untangle and become streamlined towards the film’s predictable and somewhat disappointing end.
Still, when the film works it works very well and delivers on more than one occasion as a PG-13 horror film with something to say and people to scare. The Quiet Ones gets the job done and my only real problem rests with questioning what else the film could have been had director John Pogue explored the film’s many interesting ideas and concepts a little more, before settling for a more traditional ending.
The Quiet Ones – 7/10