Professor Joseph Coupland (Jared Harris) is at The University of Oxford where he is staging an experiment which involves a mentally ill girl, Jane Harper (Olivia Cooke), who he claims is in contact with a spirit called Evie, or so it would seem. He is keeping his subject cooped up in a locked room near the university grounds where he and his assistants play loud music to keep her on edge in the hope of bringing about a manifestation, which is where Brian McNeil (Sam Claflin) enters the story, as he is a young cameraman who brings his own equipment to make a record of the experiment as instructed by the Professor. What the academic is staying cagey about is that he has tried this sort of investigation before and it didn't end well...
Giving lie to that old saying about how it's always the quiet ones you have to watch, this item from the rejuvenated Hammer studios was a horror movie, naturally, but one which was applying the America model of supernatural scares to a British setting, only with what were, sad to say, tedious results. It had apparently sat on the shelf for a couple of years before it snuck into cinemas, and watching the results you could well understand why as far from delivering a decent spooky story it opted under director John Pogue's rewrite of Tom de Ville's script to monotonously serve up the same damn situation over and over, punctuated by loud noises designed to make the audience jump.
Though after about an hour of watching shock moments conjured up every couple of minutes, the effect of which was deadening so that by the time the cast were wandering around in the dark and crashing into things the whole movie was growing far too close to slapstick farce for comfort. Only farce is supposed to be funny, and you looked in vain for anything approximating a sense of humour here, not that it was necessary, but anything to break up a tone which was more or less sustained earnestness all the way through would have been welcome. After the huge success of Hammer's The Woman in Black, The Quiet Ones could only be viewed as a backward step, which was ironic since setting this in 1974 was a conscious effort to hark back to that decade.
In Britain, the horror genre of the seventies had seen various entries on television that had frightened the life out of viewers, both on adult and children's programmes, works ranging from the Ghost Stories for Christmas to The Changes to Beasts to Children of the Stones and an abundance of others, just at a point when interest in the supernatural was burgeoning and leading to reports of supposed hauntings, flying saucers and other weirdness even turning up on news magazines like the BBC's Nationwide to give viewers a teatime thrill or chill. Therefore you can understand why works from decades later might want to recreate that era in their fiction, and indeed Doctor Who did so very successfully by calling back to its heyday of horror serials when Matt Smith encountered a haunted mansion of his own in the series revival.
When the first thing you saw on the screen was a caption telling us this was based on a true story, on the other hand, the gullible might be fooled, but on further examination The Quiet Ones had purportedly been drawn from the infamous Philip experiment of the seventies where university students concocted their very own ghost which they communicated with through clinically monitored séances. Needless to say, this genuinely intriguing item of investigation on the frontiers of mental capacity had almost nothing to do with the plot unfolding here other than the paranormal experiment premise, and that could be irritating when you were aware the filmmakers were trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the audience, but seemed to be par for the course of a whole host of flimsy claims of its contemporaries. Why a simple ghost story couldn't just stand alone - as indeed The Woman in Black had done - was likely down to the way the boasts of truth were a method of propping up shoddy storytelling, and while something of worth was promised here, it never manifested. Music by Lucas Vidal.