Esteemed Oxford professor Joseph Coupland (an excellently smarmy, sinister Jared Harris) wants to prove that there is no such thing as the paranormal. He does this by diving deep into the study of the paranormal and sequestering a young woman (Olivia Cooke) whose physical manifestations of evil suggest that she’s living with some kind of devil inside. Coupland believes she’s merely psychologically damaged and he has a lot of crackpot not-science techniques he plans to use to prove it. His college student assistants come along for the ride and film it all while it happens; and it’s 1974 so they use a big clunky camera and actual film (note: all vintage film stock effects are digital, sorry).
The latest from legendary British horror studio and masters of spooky atmosphere Hammer – an outfit where the 1970s were simultaneously lurid, weird, stiff and ridiculously entertaining – The Quiet Ones’ wayback machine is set to “somewhat sedately groovy” and features the occasional miniskirt, a few longer sideburns and Slade’s “Cum On Feel The Noize” on a constant loop. By contrast, fake-70s cousin The Conjuring is almost documentary-like in its attention to detail. It’s also much, much scarier. That film’s reliance on building a dread-filled relationship with the unknown pushed it past the typical; here the mounting suspense is regularly interrupted with petulant yelps and too many cheating “gotcha” moments. Nothing blooms as blackly as it should. Nothing is given the opportunity. You'll just count down the moments until the twist shows up. Will that twist be the devil? Probably.
If the real world were as horror movies depict, the most esteemed universities would all have professors who researched the paranormal, pretty young women would routinely find themselves the subjects of wildly violent experimental treatments designed to root out the alleged demons that populate their souls, and TV programs like Ghost Hunters wouldn’t suffer the indignity of seeing clips of their footage pop up weekly on The Soup.
But since the real world isn’t that way, we need horror films full of occult imagery, tentacle-like “teleplasm” erupting from the mouths of the afflicted like joke-snakes springing out of a fake can of cashews. We need slamming doors and a variety of phantasmically PG-13 jolts. We need cheap filler like The Quiet Ones to help us make believe that facts aren't facts. Oh, all right, we really don’t. We’ve got plenty already.