1970s horror, abuse, adoption, bathtub, burned demon, burning demon, burns, cameraman, creepy doll, death, demon doll, demon possession, demonic possession, devil, doll, ESP, experiment, Jared Harris, kill, love, mental illness, Professor, psychologist, psychology, satanic cult, satanic symbol, science, sex, students, torture, university
Jared Harris tries desperately to add some class to this weak offering from the freshly resurrected Hammer Studios but alas – in vain.
Oh Hammer, what are you doing to me? Wake Wood and The Woman in Black were hardly masterpieces but this is a huge step backwards. They had promise. This has issues.
I watched The Quiet Ones soon after The Atticus Institute and not long after The Taking of Deborah Logan. There seems to have been a little spate of demonic possession movies with an investigative perspective over the last year. But demon possession is not a trope in the way that zombies are and has yet to lend itself to innovative story telling or social commentary in the same way. It fails miserably to achieve anything of value here at all.
Harris’ Professor Coupland seeks loftily to cure to all mental illness for good. He believes that the supernatural events that occur around Jane Harper (Olivia Cooke) are a manifestation of her illness. He does not believe that she is possessed by a demon, in fact he angrily refutes it in the face of all evidence to the contrary.
Harris plays a university Professor whose research is shut down due to his questionable methods. He then takes a couple of impressionable students away from campus to continue his experiments on Jane privately. Brian joins the team as a cameraman – but immediately questions the Professors methods and Jane’s welfare.
The professor sees Jane as little more than a lab rat he’s grown fond of. He keeps her locked up, bombards her with tests which seem little different from torture and coldly criticises her when she cannot perform to order. He inspires the devotion and awe of his two assistants: the damaged and vain Kristina and the dull, selfish Harry. Even Brian suspends his better judgement and allows himself to be swept along with the Professor’s quest.
So we have the established themes of scientific progress versus morality and science versus the supernatural. So much grist for the mill.
The problem (or rather the first problem) is that the science in this film is so very poorly conceived. Bless Jared Harris for delivering his dreadful dialogue with such vigour – he almost had me buying it at times. But Professor Coupland’s hypothesis is really very silly indeed. And he is, after all, just a crank Professor with a couple of kids convinced he’s going to change the world.
And the other characters are equally badly written. Kristina is vain and broken, an utter bitch who is disgusted that the other characters are all in love with Jane and as a consequence not with her. Harry is dull and unlikeable. Brian is a wimp.
And then there’s Jane Harper. The central character. The one upon whom it all hinges.
To say Olivia Cooke is dreadful would be to insult dreadful actresses everywhere. To stand a chance of succeeding against the atrocious script, a talented actress was required for the role of Jane. One who could provide a performance encapsulating both vulnerability and an underlying menace.
Jane Harper needs to be a captivating woman. We are at times expected to believe she is a temptress, vulnerable, terrifying and dangerous. Cooke is limp, childish, dull and lifeless. To believe that all the male characters either love or wish to save her, is hilarious.
Instead we have a silly little girl, who’s frankly a bit creepy.
At one point the other characters tease Brian for being in love with Jane. Not only does this seem childish and unbecoming for a university Professor and his assistants but also totally unbelievable.
Until this point I thought Brian just felt sorry for the insipid little child, the idea that he loves her is ridiculous. They have hardly any dialogue together that doesn’t take place on opposite sides of a door (which incidentally gives a far less wooden performance than Miss Cooke). Every time he peeps at her through the hatch she’s curled up in a ball. On the occasions that they do speak she’s frankly disturbing not alluring.
But this is what happens when stupid people try to characterise intelligent people. This is what happens when ignorant people try to convince us they know about science. In movies like this it is impossible to suspend disbelief – because the premise is so shoddy. And I hate 1970s ‘paranormal science’ being paraded around in movies as though it were accepted fact and not a ridiculed pseudo-science that’s been so thoroughly refuted it’s worse than a bad joke.
There’s really nothing to recommend this film. It feels very amateurish, the scripting and direction are both awful. It’s a confusing mess with a lazy premise. For a horror movie there’s very little tension. Jane pulling the hair out of a doll and wandering around looking wan and pathetic forms much of the attempt. The scares are silly, such as the ectoplasm tentacle, but thankfully these are few and far between. There are moments when things start to get a little tense, such as when Kristina is attacked by the entity in the bathroom. But all this comes too late and is lost amidst a sudden deluge of silly information regarding the demon possession and Jane’s history. But it’s all too late and much too silly. We don’t care about Jane or anyone else in this film.
Please Hammer Studios, try harder.