Wednesday, 16 April 2014

The Quiet Ones - Movie Review

God damn it. I was really hoping to be able to recommend this one, given my well documented love of Hammer and given that it seemed to have such an intriguing set of ideas.

The set up is an interesting one. A professor called Joseph played by Jared Harris* believes that mental illness is merely a manifestation of negative energy, and that it is possible to draw this energy out and...capture it? Dissipate it? This part is a little vague. To this end he has enlisted the help of two feisty (read: irritating) undergraduates, a camera operator, and a very disturbed young woman called Jane Harper. His mantra, of "cure one person, cure humanity" actually makes a kind of sense, given that anything they can do to prove that his idea is correct will open up an entirely new area of beneficial research.

Couple of ibuprofen, she'll be right as rain.

Unfortunately, it's not quite as simple as that. Jane has an invisible friend named Evey and it becomes increasing obvious that Evey isn't exactly a manifestation of mental illness, but something else entirely. Exactly what she is can be guessed at around the halfway mark. 

The film overall has a major problem that I will discuss towards the end of the review, but I am going to digress at this point and talk about jump-scares. These are all well and good when used sparingly, but while they make the viewer jump, they can also dissipate tension. They should be sprinkled lightly over the horror movie pie. This film backs a truck up and dumps a load onto the pie, and some of them are so well telegraphed you switch off waiting for something to go OOGA BOOGA. Not good.

The dynamic between the Professor and his patient is by far the most interesting part of the film It is implied to be a co-dependent relationship, but also a mildly abusive one, and Jane is well enough developed as a character for her 'treatment' scenes to be uncomfortable viewing. As the experiment fails to produce results, Joseph pushes ever harder in his 'treatment', even burning her skin. There comes a point at which you wonder if Evey is less of a danger to Jane, let alone everyone else. 

The cameraman acts as a foil to all of this. He is not the believer that Joseph is, but is sympathetic towards Jane to the point of romantic feelings. His journey from being the skeptic to being the first to suggest the supernatural is a thing I feel the film could have developed more. He also adds in a more practical and interesting angle: the ability to use found footage techniques in a non-found footage film. When the camera's rolling, you know bad things are going down, but after watching The Borderlands last week my bar for found footage has been set very high, and despite it being an original idea, I feel that found footage is an all-or-nothing.

"Dude, this thing's heavy. Can we go to an exterior tracking shot or something?"

The problem with the film, the big problem, is that the plot doesn't really go anywhere. Sure, there are creepy moments (a scene in the attic is unbearable) but every time the plot has an opportunity to do something interesting, it shifts back into familiar grooves and into neutral. There is nothing original here and a lot that is guaessable, and the film isn't good enough for it to carry off a story we've seen a hundred times before. On the way home, I listed in my head the ways the plot could have gone which would have re-engaged me, but ultimately I left the theatre disappointed when I wanted to be terrified. After the triumphs of Wake Wood and The Woman in Black, sadly, I would give this one a miss.

Also wins a prize for the most hilariously awkward shoe'd-in title-drop in cinema history.


* AKA Professor Moriarty from Game of Shadows, and the only person I recognized, although one of the others was apparently in the Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

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