When I was a boy, Saturday served as a perfect conclusion to a tedious week of school. At 6 a.m., the three major networks offered in the Centanni home began by featuring old school shows such as “The Little Rascals,” “The Three Stooges,” “Tennessee Tuxedo” or “Deputy Dog.” This was followed by several hours of Saturday morning cartoons that tended to rage forward until noon.
“Continental Championship Wrestling” (featuring the immortal Gordon Solie) acted as a farewell to Saturday morning. Afterwards, Saturday fell into a limbo of sporting events, during which time I would take advantage of the outdoors or one of the half-dozen Atari games my older brothers owned.
When the sun set, I found myself back in front of the television, sitting cross-legged on a carpet of avocado green switching back and forth between the area’s two “independent” stations. This was back in the early days of these stations when they were unaffiliated with any corporate network. They were outlaws of the television world. They filled their Saturday evenings with a plethora of movies the three major networks would have never featured, such as “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” “Last Summer” and “Count Yorga, Vampire.” These channels also introduced me to Hammer Films.
Hammer Film Productions was a British-based movie company that thrived throughout the ’60s and into the mid-’70s with films such as “Dracula AD 1972” and “The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires.” Hammer Films were known for using a certain, unspoken formula with their movies. This formula was something I noticed, even at a young age. It was a certain look to the film grain that seemed a constant in their films. The camera used unique angles and close-ups I had never witnessed in other films. There was a certain look to the colors used in the setting and costumes. The acting maintained a melodramatic tone and walked a fine-line between campy and subpar. The films always seemed to have a stoic hero, a madman and a sultry vixen. The setting always seemed to always include an epic gothic-style house.
By the end of the ’70s, Hammer Films had retreated into a coffin of obscurity as the sunlight of the ’80s shone upon the film industry. The company returned into the spotlight four years ago with the release of “Let Me In” (starring Chloe Grace Moretz) and “The Woman in Black” (starring Daniel Radcliffe), with the latter acting as a revival of the Hammer formula. Now, Hammer Films is mingling the old school with the new school with the release of their latest film “The Quiet Ones.”
“The Quiet Ones” is tethered to the theory that ghostly activity is the result of an individual subconsciously using their unknown telekinetic powers with paranormal results. When a ghost appears, it is the physical manifestation of these powers.
Set in the mid-’70s, the film’s mad man — Professor Joseph Coupland (Jared Harris) — feels if he can get a subject to manifest their powers, then he can capture the manifestation and “cure” the individual. In this case, the patient is Jane Harper (Olivia Cooke), whose violent powers are kept in check by isolation and a loud bombardment of T. Rex and Slade.
The film’s stoic hero is cameraman Brian McNeil (Sam Claflin), whose duty is to document the “experiment.” As Coupland’s eager assistant, Kristina Dalton (Erin Richards) serves as the film’s sultry vixen and is joined by fellow assistant Harry Abrams (Rory Fleck-Byrne). Together, this quartet forces Jane to conjure a familiar spirit named “Evey,” who has been tormenting the young woman and everyone around here with violent attacks. As the film progresses, both the characters and viewers are forced to decide whether it is Jane subliminally causing the phenomenon or an actual evil spirit.
As far as the aesthetics of the film, “The Quiet Ones” is marvelous. The costuming and color schemes are brilliant. The film is split into two camera styles. One employs the use of modern camera work that employs the grand zooms and angles that Hammer Films made a trademark. The other is the result of Brian’s documentation on his camera, which displayed the old school film grain that made Hammer Films unique.
The actors’ portrayal of their characters follows the familiar Hammer quality of campiness, without crossing the line into bad acting with a number of memorable lines (“Please control your hysteria, Kristina! It’s beyond you!”). In true Hammer fashion, the film takes place in a spooky, gothic style house. These qualities show Hammer’s full return to their old school formula with the occasional use of CGI and a heaping helping of surround sound effects that can only be fully enjoyed in a big screen setting. However, the plot is another story.
The plot begins to drag at the beginning of the third act. Even a twist ending worthy of Lovecraft could not save “The Quiet Ones.” There are some suspenseful moments that will end with a jump, and it is an appealing film for Hammer fans. However, I do not think that individuals unfamiliar with Hammer’s style would catch on to the positive aspects of “The Quiet Ones.” For those wishing to experience this film, viewing on the big screen is a must.
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