Movie Review: ‘The Quiet Ones’ gets its few frights from noise

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Come now, not every demonic possession thriller can claim to be “inspired by true events.” Even though all of them do.

“The Quiet Ones” is a rather old-fashioned possession story concocted by those kings of horror camp, Britain’s Hammer Films, and released in the U.S. by Lionsgate. Perhaps as a nod to its origins, it is a period piece – set in 1974 – about an Oxford professor, his overly-dedicated disciples (“The Quiet Ones” of the title), and British hi-tech of the day, from “negative energy” detection gear to reel-to-reel tape recorders, hand-held cinema cameras and Triumph TR6 motorcars.

It’s a load of horrific hooey, having a script gone over by the “Paranormal Activity” guy – which means that much, but far from all we see, is of a “found footage” variety, of the experimental treatment run by Joseph Coupland (Jared Harris, aka Moriarty to Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock Holmes and a conspiring ad mogul in “Mad Men”).

Poor Jane (Olivia Cooke) is locked in a room for observation, urged to sit in on seances as the professor tries to see just what demon she has conjured up in her mind that he can uncover and purge.

'The Quiet Ones'

Starring: Jared Harris, Sam Claflin, Olivia Cooke, Erin Richards, Rory Fleck-Byrne.

Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and terror, sexual content, thematic material, language, and smoking throughout.

“You cure one patient, you cure all mankind” of mental illness, he reasons. There’s probably a Nobel Prize in this, his students Krissi (Erin Richards) and Harry (Rory Fleck-Byrne) figure.

Working-class Brian (Sam Claflin) is just an audio-visual specialist, horrified by the evidence of the supernatural he witnesses (which Coupland refuses to see as such), and mortified by what Coupland puts Jane through.

The scares here are of the sudden-jolt variety – telekinesis, pyrokinesis – always accompanied by explosively loud shrieks, slams and other noises. Mr. Harris suggests none of the over-the-top flourishes Hammer became famous for, although putting Ms. Cooke into a tub and dressing Ms. Richards in every manner of short shorts is evidence of the Hammer touch. Those Brits loved a little cheesecake with their horror. There’s plenty of blood, but little of that Hammer brio.

The dialogue is banal: “Joseph, I’m scared.”

“That means you’re ALIVE.”

And “I hope you don’t scare easily.”

If nothing else, any horror movie in theaters has the previews for the next six months of horror pictures attached to it. So even if the movie you watch is a stiff, a fan can cling to the hope that one of those advertised pictures will be better than this one.

That’s pretty much what you go through with “The Quiet Ones”: sitting through it just to see the stuff that may be better, even if too many of those movies, like this one, will claim to be “inspired by true events.”

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