The Quiet Ones (2012)

The Quiet Ones: written by John Pogue, Oren Moverman, and Craig Rosenberg, based on the screenplay by Tom de Ville; directed by John Pogue; starring Jared Harris (Professor Coupland), Sam Claflin (Brian), Erin Richards (Krissi), Rory Fleck-Byrne (Harry), and Olivia Cooke (Jane) (2012): The ‘true events’ this movie claims to be based upon took place in Toronto, Ontario and not in and around England’s Oxford University, where the movie is set. The events also bear virtually no relation to the movie other than the fact that human beings and seances figure in both. And oxygen, I guess. The planet Earth. The protagonists were directly beneath the Sun at some point.

The Quiet Ones even shows still photographs at the end which one assumes the viewer is supposed to believe are photos of the actual participants. They’re not. I actually like this last bit — it seems like a critique of all those ridiculously fictionalized ‘true ghost story’ movies. It’s the smartest thing about the movie. Or the fakest. 

I can see why The Quiet Ones sat on the shelf for a couple of years before being released by the reconstituted Hammer Films. It’s a movie woefully short on the sort of concise and capable characterization needed for the audience to give a crap about what’s happening to whom. Alternately, characterization can be replaced by a complicated and interesting story behind a haunting, or by the deployment of some form of fascinating exposition, or by terror itself — thrills, chills, and spills. The Quiet Ones is thin on all these fronts. It feels like a plot outline rather than an actual script was filmed.

So anyway. The real Toronto experiment involved an attempt to prove that ghosts were really psychic phenomena created by living people, primarily by having a group of people invent a fake ghost and then try to will it into existence. The mostly terrible recent movie The Apparition also spun out from this initial premise. 

The Quiet Ones inverts that premise: an obsessed psychic researcher/Oxford professor (Jared Harris, struggling mightily with his underwritten, unsympathetic, one-note character) and his trio of (grad?) students try to prove that the ghost haunting a poltergeist-plagued orphan is the creation of her psychic talents and not an actual ghost.

If you’ve seen or read Richard Matheson’s terrific novel-into-film Hell House, this will all sound vaguely familiar. If you haven’t, then read and watch Hell House (well, the movie’s re-titled Legend of Hell House) instead of The Quiet Ones.  Or read Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, with its formerly poltergeist-plagued protagonist and its massively haunted house and its team of ghost researchers. Or watch the early 1960’s adaptation of Jackson’s novel, The Haunting. The Quiet Ones simply isn’t very good or very smart. Not recommended.

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