[pullquote cite=”” type=”left, right”][amazon text=Amazon&template=carousel&chan=That Film Guy&asin=B00JE8VO5Y][/pullquote] The latest from the revived Hammer horror brand The Quiet Ones delves into a ‘Based on true events’ theme that has become so popular in the genre in recent years. Following their biggest success to date, The Woman in Black they take another retro-themed story (this time the 1970s) and look into the little-known Phillips Experiment from Canada.
Set at Oxford University in 1974, we are introduced to Professor Coupland (Jared Harris) who is teaching about the science behind supernatural events. After a lecture he approaches Brian McNeil (Sam Claflin) and hires him to join a team including Krissi (Erin Richards) and Harry (Rory Fleck-Byrne) who are involved in a long-running experiment involving a seemingly delusional and mentally unstable patient called Jane Harper (Olivia Cooke). After being expelled from their in-town accommodation because of complaints from neighbours, they move to an abandoned and isolated house in the countryside and the odd methodology of the experiment cause unexpected and startling effects.
The Quiet Ones is filled with a number of decent jumps and with some great performances, notably Harris, Claflin and Cooke. It doesn’t however, despite the intriguing setup, ever really threaten to reach the heights set by Hammer’s last foray into horror, The Woman in Black. While the retro style is neatly handled and the small inconsistencies with the hand-held camera (did they have flashlights built in back then?) are easily forgiven, it is director John Pogue’s lack of faith in his own audience that becomes the biggest problem.
Barely a scene goes by without a jump-scare, designed to fray the audiences nerves and create an atmosphere of threat. So many of these are meaningless loud noises out of the blue, and the result of a change in scene that it’s difficult not to consider them a little insulting. Too often does Pogue seem to be uncomfortable with the build-up, which any horror fan will tell you is the best part.
There is a lot of fun to be had drawing elements of 1970s life into proceedings, even going as far as to including extended scenes shot in a found footage style as Brian films the various results of the experiment. This is when the film is at its most nerve-wracking, including a stunning performance from Cooke, whose disturbed turn draws consistent thrills and chills. Sadly not enough time is spent in the company of the characters and the moments of character are diminished in search of what become increasingly cheap scares.