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May 9, 2014

The Quiet Ones

by Franz Patrick


Quiet Ones, The (2014)
★ / ★★★★

Professor Coupland (Jared Harris) defines the paranormal as a misunderstood phenomenon with a rational, scientific explanation. After showing a video during his lecture involving a little boy that is seemingly haunted by a demon, he explains that the boy’s mental illness is due to an overwhelming negative energy—one that can be captured and therefore curing the afflicted—not a literal entity that defies science. Brian (Sam Claflin) is fascinated by Dr. Coupland’s work so he chooses to participate in the Oxford professor’s experiment as a cameraman in hopes of capturing images that will serve as evidence that everything—even a girl that appears to be possessed (Olivia Cooke)—can be explained by logic.

“The Quiet Ones,” directed by John Pogue, is a horror movie with two left feet. Just when it aims to move forward and attempt to generate much needed tension, it stumbles and falls. More frustrating is after about every ineffective scene, it appears less confident in really engaging the audience on an emotional, psychological, or primal level. By the end, the material is reduced to a jumble of clichés. I could not wait for razzle-dazzle to end.

One of the picture’s critical missteps is having too much in-fighting amongst the group of researchers (Erin Richards, Rory Fleck-Byrne). Halfway through, I wondered what screenwriters Craig Rosenberg, Oren Moverman, John Pogue, and Tom de Ville were thinking. The arguments are so silly and childish that they overshadow what should be the center of the story. That is, the possible limitations of science and the repercussions of man’s hubris. Instead, we get a subplot involving a so-called romantic connection between Brian and the subject of the experiment which comes off totally fake and unconvincing, the professor being sexually involved with one of his colleagues which is laughable more than intriguing, and the question of whether or not the experiment has crossed an ethical line.

Why must the writers feel like they must give the material so much padding if the most elementary ingredients can create a fascinating story? If one were to take away all of the superficial human drama, what is left is about thirty-five minutes worth of an underdeveloped attempt at a horror story. I grew exhausted of having to wait for the material to gain some momentum but it is near impossible to achieve because a jump scare or two is often followed by a series of conversations that do not enhance the mystery in any way.

Aside from excessive subplots, why must a lot of horror movies feel like they have to show the scary thing with the help of computerized visual effects? They often look so fake that from the moment they are shown, all of the generated tension—in low levels here—is thrown the window. In addition, when the demon has shown itself, or a form of itself, why do the researchers choose to keep going? It does not make any sense.

It becomes very clear to us—and to them—that what they are dealing with is beyond science. It has come to a point where their hypothesis, the reason why they are doing what they are doing, has been demolished. Why doesn’t anybody think or respond like a normal person? A good scientist knows when his or her hypothesis has been disproven. Now, my argument would be invalid if the filmmakers had exercised restraint when it comes to showing or not showing certain images.

“The Quiet Ones” has not much to offer in terms of scares or technical merit that leads up to the scares. It has an annoying tendency, like many bad horror films, of pumping up the volume during would-be jump scares. Why is that scary? You will have more fun breaking into to an abandoned building with your friends and playing hide-and-clap, if you ask me.

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