The Quiet Ones review: possession obsession

The Quiet Ones yellow light

There aren’t many outright scares here, and when they do come, they are curiously circumspect, but the old-fashioned Hammer Horror atmosphere is appealingly spooky.
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Welcome to the experiment,” says seedy-tweedy Professor Coupland to his new documentarian, AV geek Brian, not quite adding “Bwahahahaha!” to the greeting, but you can almost hear it anyway. For we’re already starting to suspect that the academic is a little bit mad and a little bit sadistic; also, he’s Jared Harris (The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones), who brings his usual offhand creepiness to the screen. Brian (Sam Claflin: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire) is not one of Coupland’s students at Oxford University — “I’d never get in here,” he laments — which makes him the perfect outside observer and resident skeptic as Coupland, with the assistance of a couple of students/acolytes, attempts to cure his “psychotic” subject, Jane Harper (Olivia Cooke), who definitely Ain’t Right in a horror-movie sort of way. Coupland believes that there is something scientific and psychiatric, not supernatural, behind what appears to be Jane’s demonic possession, and he is going to prove his theory and show all those scoffers back in the faculty lounge, bwahahaha. The year is 1974, and so Brian’s documenting of the experiment happens via giant clunky film cameras, some footage from which is shared with us, and though The Quiet Ones in no way purports to be a Paranormal Activity-style documentary, director John Pogue’s mix of straight-up narrative and faux retro faux found footage adds to the overall spookiness in a way that the usual horror-flick claim that what we are witnessing was “inspired by actual events” does not. There aren’t many outright scares here, and when they do come, they are curiously circumspect — so as not to bounce the film up into R/18 territory, I suspect. But once the experiment moves to a creaky old house out in the remote countryside, thanks to complaints from neighbors in town and the university pulling Coupland’s funding, the old-fashioned Hammer Horror atmosphere cranks up, and not just because of the 70s-era fug of cigarette smoke hanging over the proceedings. Bwahahaha.

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