The weather might be warming up (finally), but that doesn't mean you can't still get shivers running down your spine courtesy of "The Quiet Ones," a very spooky new horror movie about a professor (played by Jared Harris) who tries to scientifically prove that the supernatural is merely a psychological manifestation and nothing more, utilizing the help of some very plucky, very trusting graduate students from Oxford.
You can imagine how well that goes.
Of course, with the mega-blockbusters of the summer movie season just around the corner (or have they already began? Should we ask Captain America?), do people want a mostly quiet horror movie, with nary a gimmick in sight? Considering how "Oculus" fared a few weeks ago, this is a very viable question. Read on to find out!
1. The Hammer Logo Is Still the Best Ever
"The Quiet Ones" is a new movie by fabled studio Hammer, which produced some of the more memorable horror movies in the history of British cinema. They've been coming back lately, first with the "Let the Right One In" remake "Let Me In," then the sleeper Daniel Radcliffe hit "The Woman in Black" (plus a couple of marginal titles that came out direct-to-video in the United States, including one where two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank just gets creeped on for two hours). The one thing that has remained uniformly excellent about their recent output, though, is the excellence of the Hammer logo, which is like the Marvel logo except with way more fangs.
2. It's Another Period Horror Movie
Since the success of last summer's "The Conjuring," there seems to be a greater emphasis placed on period horror movies. Most of "Oculus" was set in the past, and a number of high-profile horror movies in production have an old timey feel. This works for a number of reasons -- mostly the lack of technology makes it harder to figure out what is going on with the supernatural phenomena manifesting before you, and because period movies have a unique look and feel that are quite different than modern day horror movies. It's nice too to see a movie set in the '70, the heyday of scary movies. You can easily imagine Harris rubbing elbows with David Warner from "The Omen" or Donald Sutherland from "Don't Look Now." They were probably all wearing argyle socks.
3. The Sick Girl From 'Bates Motel' Is in It
Olivia Cooke, the hot, sick girl from A&E's "Bates Motel," plays a young girl in "The Quiet Ones" who is seemingly possessed with otherworldly spirits. She has the power to move things with her mind, can command fire, and looks pale and gross all the time but also somehow alluring (maybe the most significant superpower of all). It's the first time I had ever heard Cooke with her native accent and she really is a powerhouse in the movie, adorable and eerie all at the same time. (She also might be a scream queen in the making, thanks to her upcoming roles in horror films "The Signal" and "Ouija.")
4. The Particulars of the Experiment Are Never Fully Explained
So, Jared Harris is a professor looking to prove that supernatural phenomena doesn't actually exist. Later, he says that this type of mental illness is like a virus. "Cure one subject, cure the world," he says, sounding not unlike a really erudite cult leader. But how this is supposed to happen is never really made clear. Not only would knowing this be edifying in a general sense but it would help you understand the fundamentals of what the characters are trying to do. It would just be helpful for a lot of reasons.
5. Jared Harris's Beard Is Out of Control
Seriously, it's angular and amazing. I even talked to him about it when we chatted recently. It's hard to take your eyes off of it. It's a magnificent display of manly facial hair done right.
6. It Is Way Too PG-13
Another thing that "The Conjuring" should have proven is that R-rated horror movies can still make money. They don't all have to be toothless PG-13 affairs. But no, "The Quiet Ones" is very much a PG-13-rated movie. And you can tell that it was not shot as such. There's a moment when young Olivia Cooke pops out of the bathtub and they cut right before you actually see her breast. Because. God forbid. Elsewhere, two characters are violently murdered, entirely off screen, and for a movie set in the '70s, there's not a joint or LSD tablet in sight. This doesn't just make for drabber filmmaking, it flies in the face of Hammer's history. They were always sexier, funnier, and more colorful than their American counterparts.
7. There's Some Cool Found Footage Aspects to the Movie...
One of the main characters in "The Quiet Ones" is played by Sam Claflin, who is one of the costars of "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" and that "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie with the mermaids, and his character is not a student but a local kid who works with the AV club to photograph various experiments. So a lot of the movie is through his lens, where we watch what is unfolding through herky-jerky old film (they never say the stock or size, although at one point he has to "buy cheaper stock," although that sadly doesn't manifest itself visually). There are cool moments where there will be a splice or something and the images won't align properly, and it makes for an altogether more uneasy experience...
8. Although, the Aspect Ratio Might Have Been Wrong
... Although I'm pretty sure that the aspect ratio isn't correct. The image does shift, slightly, with an effect known as "pictureboxing" going on around the edges of the frame. But this isn't the historically accurate representation of what this film would have looked like. It would have been boxier and squarer. Just wait until kids watching this movie at multiplexes and in malls riot in outrage over the improper aspect ratio.
9. Harris's Character Is Able to Explain Away A LOT
At one point, Olivia Cooke's character unleashes what can only be described as a tentacle of goo, that exits her mouth and swirls around in a menacing, bloody tie-dye swoosh. And yet Jared Harris's character remains a skeptic. He describes the phenomenon as "teleplasm," which I'm pretty sure is something from "Ghostbusters 2," and continues the experiment undeterred. Nothing impresses that guy.
10. It's About as 'Based on a True Story' as Batman
The movie claims to be based on a true story, but with a narrative that involves self-immolation, devil-worshiping cults, and a little kid with a demonic imaginary friend, it's about as reality-based as "The Dark Knight Rises." Just keep that in mind. Especially when the teleplasm starts to fly.