'The Quiet Ones' review: Retro spookfest offers nothing new

Rating

2.5 Stars2.5/5

Liz Braun, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:15 PM ET

The Quiet Ones is a horror story with a real-life Toronto connection.

The film, which bills itself as based on real events, is loosely connected to what came to be called The Philip Experiment. It was part of the work done by Dr. George Owen, a British poltergeist specialist (and mathematician) living and working in Toronto in the 1970s; he was part of the Toronto Society for Psychical Research. Their goal was to prove that supernatural events were created by human imagination.

Is the mind powerful enough to cause the physical phenomena viewed as paranormal?

Maybe so, but the mind is not powerful enough to spin dross into gold, the required feat that would make The Quiet Ones a good movie. Make that over-familiar dross, while we're on the subject.

The movie stars Jared Harris as Professor Joseph Coupland, an academic determined to help a mentally ill girl and find a general cure for mental illness in the process. The professor is experimenting on one Jane Harper (Olivia Cooke), a disturbed young woman who was raised in a series of foster homes. Bad things happen around Jane and she seems possessed, but the professor is sure Jane's violent alter ego is her own creation — not fakery, but a trick of the mind.

The professor is helped in his research by a couple of students (Erin Richards and Rory Fleck-Byrne) and a cameraman (Sam Claflin) hired to film their scientific work. The story is set in the '70s and is shot to look that way. The research group leaves campus and moves into a decrepit old rental, just the spot to find scaaaary things, boys and girls.

Jane is beautiful and sweet-tempered, when she isn't cutting herself or spontaneously starting fires or making things crash around the house, and our innocent cameraman finds himself falling for her. The professor drugs Jane and isolates her; he attempts to lure her alter ego out into the open, but that never seems to work.

People run around yelling in the dark and stumble into things. Doors bang shut or resist opening. Jane suddenly develops a demonic symbol on her skin. (Most of the scares are telegraphed in advance.) Just when you're sitting around in the dark getting bored and wondering what it all means, our cameraman finds some answers in an old book. The plot thickens like glue, but it's too little, too late. Or rather — too much, too late. There's a pile-on of extraneous detail and dead bodies before it's all over.

The Quiet Ones has a way cool retro look. Sadly, that's the film's best quality. The material nods to the horror films of a previous generation but it has nothing new or interesting to say. You get the feeling with The Quiet Ones that you've seen it all before. And you probably have.

Twitter: @LizBraunSun

liz.braun@sunmedia.ca


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