Don't let the title fool you; "The Quiet Ones" is joltingly loud, few scenes passing by that aren't punctuated by falling light fixtures or creepy, kooky faces popping up to startle the charactersand viewers. Jump scares can be awfully hokey, especially when they are of the false variety or too numerous to bother counting. These sorts of ploys, particularly when ineffective and poorly carried out, signal a filmmaker's desperation. Writer-director John Pogue (screenwriter of 2002's "Ghost Ship
") flirts with overdoing them, to be sure, but there is no denying that he is fairly astute at delivering the seat-pouncing goods. What his and co-writers Craig Rosenberg (2009's "The Uninvited
") and Oren Moverman's (2011's "Rampart") screenplay lacks in enduring substance, the picture makes up for in sophistication and methodic engagement.
Jared Harris (2014's "Pompeii
") is captivating as Joseph Coupland, an Oxford University professor who, in 1974, recruits three studentscameraman Brian McNeil (Sam Claflin) and assistants Krissi Dalton (Erin Richards) and Harry Abrams (Rory Fleck-Byrne)to assist him with an experiment to disprove the existence of supernatural phenomena. Accompanying him to an abandoned house in the English countryside, they set about working with test subject Jane Harper (Olivia Cooke), a disturbed young woman whom Joseph believes has manifested a self-made spirit through her doll Evey. Joseph's goal is to substantiate Jane's mental illness, just as he tried to do years earlier with a similarly plagued patient named David. The longer the group works with this girl, however, the more Brian becomes convinced that all of them, Jane included, are in mortal danger from an entity that is not of this world.
"The Quiet Ones" is handsomely photographed by Mátyás Erdély, a moody blend of overcast skies and 1970s aesthetics. Director John Pogue draws his audience in immediately with a skillfully, eerily suggestive opening credits sequence, and then wastes no time in introducing his central ensemble of five. The movie presents itself at the onset as an eloquent slow burn, but then averts these expectations. Whether in Jane's mind or not, the building unexplained events aim to throttle viewers whenever they least expect it. Olivia Cooke (A&E's "Bates Motel") is riveting as the vulnerable, suicidal, possibly possessed Jane, the enigmatic figure circled by dark forces both internal and external. "The Quiet Ones"loosely based on a real-life 1972 parapsychology study known as the Philip Experimentdoesn't add up to as much as one hopes in the third act, particularly as it pertains to Joseph and his collapsing hypotheses. Nevertheless, there is a lot to admire as the film embraces a pleasing brand of old-school chills over modern-day, pop-culture hipness.