(US/UK - 2014)
Directed by John Pogue. Written by Craig Rosenberg, Oren Moverman, and John Pogue. Cast: Jared Harris, Sam Claflin, Olivia Cooke, Erin Richards, Rory Fleck-Byrne, Laurie Calvert, Aldo Maland. (PG-13, 98 mins)
The 2007 revival of the legendary Hammer Films was much-hyped in horror circles, but in the ensuing seven years, it's only resulted in five films and BEYOND THE RAVE, a 20-part serial that debuted on MySpace in 2008. Of those five films, LET ME IN, the 2010 remake of the Swedish vampire hit LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, and 2012's THE WOMAN IN BLACK were the undisputed standouts, with the Hilary Swank stalker thriller THE RESIDENT (which featured Hammer icon Christopher Lee in a prominent supporting role) and the subpar WAKE WOOD not doing much to herald Hammer as a force in today's horror. Two years after their last production and two years after it was shot, Hammer's latest offering, THE QUIET ONES, has finally arrived and it seems to encapsulate every doubt I've had about this new "Hammer." Specifically, it's not Hammer. Sure, it's the name "Hammer," but that's all it is. These aren't being made by the same talents that gave us all of those old classics with Lee and Peter Cushing and the rest. Of course, most of those people are no longer with us, but this new Hammer is simply coasting on nostalgia and brand recognition, much like its barely reanimated rival Amicus, which has only managed to churn out two films since its 2005 rebirth. There's no continuity or sense of tradition with the current Hammer, though THE WOMAN IN BLACK was a thoroughly enjoyable throwback chiller that has thus far come closest to being worthy of the name by replicating what a vintage Hammer production should be. THE QUIET ONES is, for lack of a better term, poseur Hammer, a film that thinks it's being old-school just because it has a British cast and is set in 1974, but it doesn't do anything with that setting. In fact, it seems to go out of its way to placate today's audiences with a 2014 assembly-line product. And unless you're part of a focus group, that's not a good thing.
THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT, which is really where THE QUIET ONES jumps the shark. Maybe the vintage 1970s aura is something that existed in the original script by Tom De Ville, which was apparently rewritten by the committee of Pogue, Craig Rosenberg (LOST, THE UNINVITED), and the unlikely Oren Moverman, whose past credits for films like I'M NOT THERE, THE MESSENGER, and RAMPART don't exactly make him the go-to guy for Hammer horror. I can only assume that an odd credit like "Based on the original screenplay by Tom De Ville" means that none of De Ville's script made it to the completed version. The film is also "inspired by actual events," which means it was vaguely influenced by what's known as the "Phillip Experiment," where Canadian researchers tried to conjure a ghost on their own. It was ultimately revealed to be a hoax, not unlike the current incarnation of "Hammer," which will henceforth be accompanied by quote marks when referenced.
OCULUS a look if hasn't already left your area theaters. That's a film set in the present day that could've been made in the 1970s. If you're watching THE QUIET ONES for some sense of 1970s eerieness, you're better off just watching any random Hammer production from 1974. Or maybe 1973's THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE. Or hell, just watch Edgar Wright's DON'T trailer. In under 90 seconds, that perfectly nails the concept of "1974 British horror" better than all 98 minutes of "Hammer"'s THE QUIET ONES.