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Movie Review

Things that go bump in the Oxonian night

Someday someone will once again make horror movies without found footage or demonically possessed women. And maybe with coherent plots. “The Quiet Ones,” a laughable farrago from director John Pogue and a committee of screenwriters (talk about not being on the same page), does not raise hopes of that happening soon. Nor does it bode well for the film’s studio, the supposed rebirth of the revered Hammer Films.

Based on a true story (aren’t they all), this takes place in 1974 at Oxford University (you can tell it’s the ’70s because everyone smokes), where Professor Joseph Coupland (Jared Harris), a researcher in abnormal psychology, attempts to extract the craziness from Jane Harper (Olivia Cooke), a disturbed young woman. He hopes to materialize her pathology, bottle it in some way, and thus cure the world of mental illness (this was before Prozac). Jane, in short, is a guinea pig, donated to Coupland by the insane asylum where she was an incurable patient.

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With his assistants — slutty Krissi (Erin Richards), horny Harry (Rory Fleck-Byrne), and, the inevitable cameraman, bashful Brian (Sam Claflin) — Coupland puts Jane through what today would be called enhanced interrogation. Locking her in a cell, depriving her of sleep, he demands she manifest her invisible evil companion, Evey. When neighbors complain about the repetition of Slade’s “Cum on Feel the Noize” that Coupland plays at full volume to keep Jane awake, the university kicks out the group and they relocate to the creepiest house in London.

There Pogue exploits every fake scare tactic in the repertoire, with spooky noises offscreen, doors slowly opened to reveal . . . nothing, a soundtrack of thuds, heartbeats, and rattled aluminum siding, and bursts of seeming violence shot in a bogus handheld style like an episode of “Ghost Hunters” gone wild. Some of this footage is shot by Brian, some is from an omniscient point of view, with no explanation for the inconsistency. Or is there a method to the madness? Could some scenes be alluding to Michael Powell’s “Peeping Tom” or Ingmar Bergman’s “Persona”? Probably not. “The Quiet Ones” simply has nothing to say.

Peter Keough can be reached at petervkeough@gmail.com.
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