Featuring: Olivia “‘Bates Motel’” Cooke , Sam “The Hunger Games” Claflin , Jared “‘Mad Men’” Harris
Director: John “Quarantine 2: the Terminal” Pogue
Writers: John “Ghost Ship” Pogue , Craig “The Uninvited” Rosenberg , Tom “The Hallow” de Ville , Oren “I’m Not There.” Moverman
For those wondering the cause of my latest absence, it all started last year when my court mandated hypnotherapist told me to explore the world and meet new people. I thought she said explode the world and eat new people and, well, let’s just say I had a very awkward several month stay in Germany… Further stymieing my return, the spray-tan-scrotum-golem-in-chief’s racist travel ban made it impossible for an Egyptian Death God/Dog to get back into the US by “conventional” means. Anyway, with all of that behind me, here we are! Did I miss anything while I was MIA? Never mind. I don’t care. Hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s back to reviewing I go!
The flick heralding my glorious return to cinema nitpicking is yet another from the ever-swelling sub-genre of “Inspired by actual events” movies. How inspired? As is often the case, only enough to establish a basic foundation for a house of lies.
The actual event in question is a little-known 1972 mental spelunking designated, “The Phillip Experiment”. Headed by a Canadian mathematician (because nobody knows horror like someone whose life revolves around numbers) named A.R.G. Owen (“ARGO”?), it attempted to prove Dr. “Uncle” Owen’s theory that supernatural phenomenon was the result of human psychology and that the supposed specters of the restless deceased (i.e. ghosts) are just a case of shared hallucinations between peers. In testing said population postulation, ARGO gathered a handful of educated associates and the group created a fictional character named Phillip (hence the title), complete with his own made-up background. Once Phil’s character sheet was filled out (I’m guessing he was a half-orc rogue with a Chaotic Neutral alignment), the group went about holding a “seance” to try and Witchboard the imaginary spirit into existence. When their first attempt flopped, they spookied up the second effort like a cheap Halloween spook house and sure enough: *BOOM!* so much spooky shit hit the fan that they needed to pressure wash the walls after.
Despite this supposed evidence to support ARGO’s hypothesis, why aren’t the results of the experiment globally acknowledged as the official debunking of every ghost story ever told? While the majority of the scientific community would rather point out the numerous flaws with the experiment’s execution, we all know that nightmare fuel sells, so consider it an assassination job by the horror industry and the collective con-men (and con-women) who make their livings off of “reuniting people with their dead family members” and making TV shows where nobody actors pretend to be “paranormal experts” yelling at “ghosts” in front of night vision cameras!
Well, that covers the educational portion of the review. Now that I’ve guaranteed a few more weeks of grant funding from The CHUD Group (taking “based on actual events” movies to task since 1984!), allow me to hang up my mortar board and don my rubber monster mask. It greatly obscures my vision and puts me at a heightened danger of asphyxia, but it gets me in the proper mindset for movie mockery…and it scares the shit out of the cats too! Mwa-ha-ha-ha.
Across the pond, in the merry old England of 1974, Oxford University professor Joseph Coupland (Jared Harris playing the missing link between Frasier Crane’s brother and Hellboy’s adopted father) fills in the role of “curmudgeonly old science type who will sacrifice as many underlings as need be in the desperate effort to prove his crackpot theories”. He gets things rolling by familiarizing his upper class rich kid students with an experiment he himself conducted, centered around curing a mentally disturbed subject known only as “David Q”, a barely pubescent lad with a penchant for making drawings, not unlike Mike Myers’ reoccurring “SNL” character Simon. Pretty normal, right? Except that his refrigerator disasterworks were of a spooky creepozoid he called “Mr. Gregor”, based on a character from one of his dear old dad’s bedtime stories. If you’re thinking of Peter Rabbit’s arch-nemesis, that’s Mr. McGregor, who is slightly less horrifying. Anyway, according to DQ, this Weight Watchers Uncle Fester is “the man that makes things happen”. Unlike Edward “A Man Who Makes Things Happen” Collins, Mr. G’s talents didn’t involve integral advances to the state of Texas’ infrastructure. His “things” were more in the realm of poltergeist-ian happenings around young David that had those close to him believing he was a better candidate for an exorcism than a session on a shrink’s leather couch.
One of Coupland’s mentees (not manatees…though that would make for an interesting twist) decries his work as blasphemous and abandons the class since “Revenant Remonstration” wasn’t listed in the syllabus. I wonder if “conflict with religious beliefs” is a refundable excuse when dropping a subject… Charley Church is pretty much alone in his condemnation though, so Professor Joey Joe Joe had little trouble already convincing two of his suck-up-iest students to help him further his hunt for a cure to a condition that 99% of whose victims only exist in cheap horror flicks still trying to cash in on the popularity of The Exorcist.
Krissi (Erin Richards) is an attention magnet female caricature of a character who gets off on men wanting to engage in sexual congress with her. In a modern setting, she’d be one of those “bi for the guys” types who makes out with other women in bars just so they’ll be in the center of the testosteronal spotlight. She initially tried to sign up for the project as the test subject because she’s “so crazy”, but having father abandonment issues and severe jealousy isn’t what Coupland was looking for, so Krissi tags along to assist and observe. On a related note, Graa-Muhr – the Sumerian god demon that lives in my Speak & Spell and spellchecks my words – has declared spelling that name with an ‘i’ as a heretical act. As such, I’ll be calling her “Kris” for the remainder of my bemused musings. Over and out.
Harry (Rory Fleck-Byrne) is a pretty persona non interessante in his own right, there to experience what he thinks will be a milestone in all kinds of sciences without providing any real catalyst to the goings-on. He’s also Kris’ current partner in the synchronized mattress gymnastics routine, so expect standard “relationship complications” between the pair in a quarter-hearted effort to make them both seem less two-dimensional. As for the study’s star, she’s an afflicted/conflicted young woman named Jane Harper (Olivia Cooke). Miss Harper is a suicidal amnesiac with “off the charts” brain wave frequencies whose only known past consists of being an unwilling passenger of the British foster care system, hot potato-ed like a human dybukk box from home to home because of her tendency for paranormal “redecoration” in every home she was placed. Claiming she’s not responsible for the destruction left in her wake, the girl (well, woman, as she’s 24 according to my math) insists that another personality named Evey (pronounced like the Pokemon Evee, and not like “every” minus the ‘r’) is to blame. Professor Coupy hypothesizes that Evey is a delusion created by his little guinea pig and is determined to harvest her telekinetic havoc by “trapping” the imaginary friend inside of a doll, thus giving Evey her own physical form, thus making a name for himself in the annals of crackpot horror movie mad science history and likely dooming himself and his cohorts to be menaced and murdered Talking Tina style.
(Run, Bojack! Uhm, I mean, Kojak. Run, Kojak!)
To achieve his goal, Coupland (who’s not nearly as magical as Disneyland) keeps Calamity Jane locked up in an apartment where she’s mentally tormented around every little minute line of the proverbial clock. The theory is that depriving her of sleep and subjecting her to blaring renditions of Slade’s “Cum on Feel the Noize” will stress her to the point of a veritable breakdown, releasing the Dark Hadou within. Given what we’ve seen from shit like Firestarter, Scanners and Akira, this isn’t going to end well for anyone.
Now, until this movie, the only rendition of “Cum on Feel the Noize” (or “CoFtN” as true fans know it) I had been aware of was the version Quiet Riot would cover ten years later for their album Metal Health. So, if nothing else, The Quiet Ones will always be remembered for me as the movie that completely reconfigured the Rubix Cube that is my casual enjoyment of ’80s hair metal. Hell, maybe it’ll help you score a couple points and some free mozzarella planks next time you hit up trivia night at the pub! You’re welcome.
In need of someone to chronicle his self-professed history-in-the-making project, the morally malleable pedagogue employs an independent filmmaker (i.e. someone in the Oxford AV Department, so the Prof wouldn’t need to pay a deposit on the equipment) named Brian (Sam Claflin) to immortalize it all on film…or as “immortal” as a highly volatile medium like film can be, at least. Unlike Harry & Kris, Bri’s a member of the working class, born of society’s lower crust and only “attends” the prestigious palace of higher learning in as much as the people who scrub the toilets do. He’s the movie’s be-sideburned every-man that the general audience can relate to while the other three push the ambiguity of the audience’s presumptive precepts, thus digging their own graves.
In other words, Brian’s the good guy.
In a neat little bit of trivia, it turns out that some of the POV scenes were actually shot by Claflin to add a pinch of authenticity to them. Groovy.
This crew of would-be pioneers in brain science blatherskite don’t get very far into their sadism before being forced to leave the flat-turned-dungeon after one too many calls to the Bobbies by a buzzkill neighbor who just doesn’t appreciate incorrectly spelled songs about girls rocking their boys. Following said run-in with the law (cue Steve Sax and his misadventures in the Springfield softball scene), Dr. Smarty Pants’ funding gets cut off faster than a male Skywalker’s hand. With the coffers of higher learning no longer picking up the tab on their trauma loft and sadism fetish footage, the gang relocate to an old mansion in the countryside that’s straight out of the Oxfordshire Chainsaw Massacre.
“Pip pip, fish and chips. Dog will hunt and all that bother.”
Bry’s also forced to downgrade his film to a cheaper stock to accommodate their now out-of-pocket adventure, or so he says. This claim is inconsistent with the movie though, as the footage with this “cheaper stock” somehow becomes cleaner during the important footage, only to revert back to crappier quality during the group’s “behind the scenes” downtime footage. Not really something to condemn the movie to the gallows for, just a (thumbtack-in-the-)\footnote for our fellow pickers of nit out there in the world wide waste.
In between Jane’s “counseling sessions” (basically more harassment, but with festive novelty trance party lights), typical British ’70s sexpot Kris carries out makeout session with both Harry and Professor Jojo, because we didn’t have enough reasons to be revolted by dirty Dunkirk grandpa before this. While that unsettling game of Love Triangle Twister plays out, our simple hero Brian finds himself struggling with his own twenty-something loin boiling. Not one to take on anyone’s sludgy thirds, his attention ends up getting glued to the carpenter’s dream in the padded cell, who makes no secret about lusting for the handsome cameraman herself. Or are those impure thoughts the work of dirty-minded mental squatter Evey’s hidden valley? Either or, never underestimate the panty-dropping appeal of a tight set of sideburns, folks!
(Uncut folicular sex, right there.)
These new found feelings for (feeling) Jane lead to Brian contaminating the experiment when he disrupts one of the torture sessions, just as Coupland was on the verge of (or so he says) forcing Evey to finally manifest and relocated into Jane’s toy doll. Following the incident, Brier Rabbit starts to question the legitimacy of the experiments, convinced that he’s being played for a fool and this is all going to end up on an episode of Punk’d in 30 years. His search for corroborating proof results in, well, let’s call it “unfortunate evidence to the contrary” to spare too many details, and he realizes the happenings happening are very much real, much like the danger to his new love interest. Kris too voices her concerns for Jane’s welfare, but much more easily silenced than Brian, i.e. with the old man’s tongue down her throat. BLART! However, Special K starts getting jealous of all the attention Jane/Evey gets from the Prof and wants to end the experiment, meeting with consequences of her own. And Harry? Who cares. I don’t and neither should you.
Inhuman as it may seem though, are Dr. Shit Pickle’s edumacated presumptions of Jane’s condition accurate? Is he really the only person that can save her from herself? Is E-V really just a voice echoing in the woman’s head, or is Coupland’s self-proclaimed debunking of the supernatural doomed to its own debunkening? Will he redeem his appearance as a hideous excuse for a human being by bringing peace to her suffering soul and countless others’ (well, maybe a dozen across the globe) by curing whatever fucking pyrokinetic multiple personality disorder is going on here?! Naturally, shit gets out of hand, and the final 20 or so minutes amp up the manic panic with more twists that a contortionist possessed by Pazuzu! But, since this flick’s still underage in regards to my Rule of Five, I won’t spoil them here. I will tell you this much: the Talking Heads would approve of the experiment’s end result.
(My science fair project, “Shit: How to Tell If It’s Getting Out of Hand”)
The backstory behind The Quiet Ones extends beyond just its looser-than-lunchmeat interpretation of “true events”. For those out there who were unaware, it’s also one of the final movies produced by Hammer Films. Yes, that Hammer Films… no, not M.C. Hammer Films, which was never a thing, no matter how hard we got to pray just to make it today. Anyway, yeah, almost 30 years after the original studio shutdown in the wake of waning gains, a Dutchie by the name of John De Mol bought the rights to the UK house of horrors and its 300+ movie properties. His intention was to stir the smoldering ashes in hopes of finding a few hot coals with which to re-spark the company’s status as a bastion of unique scares for people seeking an alternative to the same old slashers and more-of-the-same monsters. Over the seven year period following their first release (a MySpace exclusive micro-series called Beyond the Rave), Hammer was responsible for putting out the English remake of Let the Right One In, The Resident, Wake Wood, a post-Potter Danny Radcliffe starring in The Woman in Black, and The Quiet Ones before presumably bowing out with 2014’s The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death.
I’m by no means a Hammer-Head. Of the bulging back catalog they boast, my exposure to said selection has been the occasional installment of Chris Lee’s Drac Race and random weirdness like X the Unknown. I don’t question their appeal, nor the tastes of their sizable fan base, I’m just not foaming at the mouth for old British renditions of public domain monster mashes. Now that I think about it though, I’d down a whole bowl of Egyptian style prairie oysters (think camels instead of cattle) if it meant getting a Terry Gilliam directed revamp of House of Dracula. Somebody jump start the Kickstarter machine, stat!
As I was saying before so rudely interrupting myself (with a fucking brilliant idea – you’re welcome), I am no Hammer die hard(er), thus I have no truly viable opinion on how The Quiet Ones stacks up to the previous studio’s legacy. Judging it on its own merits as a stand alone horror flick though, I licked it! Errr, liked it. Liked it!
Unlike Quarantine 2, John “probably doesn’t know Shane McGowen” Pogue’s interspersing of shaky “found footage” cam within the frame of a traditional point-and-shoot movie both fits the theme and manages to not feel nearly as shoe-horned up the audience’s collective colon. The “faux film filter” of the documentary footage is actually pretty well done, setting it apart from the crisp, vibrant look of the rest of the flick. It’s not a perfect replacement for the real thing, but in the wake of digital media, I’m pretty sure actual film is harder to wrangle these days than an Adam Sandler NetFlix release that doesn’t make me want to throw myself into a thresher while watching it. Despite advances in technology though, it’s too bad the CGI effects aren’t nearly as well done, even under the obscuring veil of said filters. Our eyes are metaphorically poked by a digitally rendered “teleplasma” tentacle that couldn’t rouse a twitch in the taint of even the most perverted hentai viewer if its programmer’s life depended on it. An odd scenario that I’m not even sure I could conjure up a feasible setup for, but I said it, like it or lump it. That said, any movie lover worth their weight in salt water taffy knows that you need to temper your expectations around a flick’s finances, so a lesser budget production like The Quiet Ones doesn’t take much of a hit for less-than-stellar visuals. Less a hit, in fact, and more of a tickle. To the armpits. Not long enough to break out into fisticuffs, though. Or lead to any awkward sexual tension…?
And by that I mean, uhm, how about that cast!
Jared Harris plays a perfectly good stodgy old British learn-ed type, giving Old Man Coupland apropos gravitas, charisma and sleaziness in even measure, gradually growing his drive for the experiment into
an uncomfortable obsession without going into full-on over-the-top James Bond super-villainy. Olivia Cooke also does an admirable job of taking Jane between a suffering child that’s a magnet for the audience’s empathy and an uncomfortably aggressive deviant desperate to have her hot pocket stuffed. It’s a performance that’s made all the more upsetting by Cooke’s jailbait appearance, not looking nearly all of the 24 years of Jane’s age thanks to her do-it-herself haircut, barely-there bust, and the fact that she was only NINETEEN at the time of filming. Sam Claflin’s Brian is good enough as the well-meaning hero burdened with doing the job he’s been hired for or doing what his moral compass (and groinal compass) tells him he should. It’s not a meaty role, really. “Brian” is not a part comparable to the thespian equivalent of a Triple Meat Lover’s Meats-a-Treats-a-Rotti Deluxe (Lumberjack style) from Meat Sweat Marco’s All Animals Great and Small Buffet. But, for what it is, Claflin earns his paycheck.
Richards and Fleck-Byrne, though a great name for a Vaudeville act, are just kinda there as Kris and Harry respectively. She’s attractive, he’s a doofus, they fit the parts, end of story. “No small parts”? Go butt-chug some arsenic, Stanislavski.
A quick glance at the official Hammer site (hammerfilms.com) tells me that they’re still working on various projects, despite their movie production slowing to an almost complete halt. They’re currently holding English style horror stage plays in London, curiously enough, but did mention that as of October of last year they’re working on a new movie-to-be called The Lodge. Despite its fairly poor critical reception and a few plot hole potholes (having FOUR writers will do that) that could’ve been filled-in to make the ride smoother, The Quiet Ones was enjoyable enough to this particular Death God Dog to put this new(ish) version of the old company into my vision cone. Whether I opt to review them or not, I’ve got an interest in tracking down the handful of Q1s‘s fellow Neo-Hammer creations now, so good on you, sirs and madams.
Now, if you’ll excuse me (and even if you won’t), I flushed something that looked like a brown version of the titular terrorizer of Chuck Band’s Parasite this morning and should probably inform the local Water & Sewer Department before it starts laying eggs and making indecent proposals to Demi Moore…
Cheerio and bugger off, ya blighters and bints!
“Hey, what are you… Damn it! STOP THAT! What is it with you Millenials and this fucking fascination with rimjobs!? Do you think that’s where Tide Pods come from?!”
If someone at Warner Bros. ever wanted to make a live-action “Wacky Races” movie, there’s your Penelope Pitstop.
A new documentary finally reveals just what is Behind the Green Door. And it’s… a green… room? Huh. Looks like someone’s getting their grant money revoked.
Wednesday Addams learns the terrifying truth of the world outside of the family fortune: studio apartments, minimum wage, and having your power shut off because you just HAD to buy that $200 pair of knee high goth boots from Torrid for the Marilyn Manson concert next week instead of paying the electric bill.
“Alright, I give up. I haven’t the slightest bloody clue how to play Croquet!”
Tolgate Transportation – when you need windowless vans to relocate your ethically questionable “human abuse in the name of science” projects, think Tolgate!
This promotional picture leaves me feeling really uncomfortable for the “new direction” Disney has planned for the next season of “Girl Meets World”. Maybe they shouldn’t have handed production over to the “True Detective” people.
Oh no. Is this one of those horrifying FLDS arranged child marriages situations?! I’d rather watch snuff footage of Andy Griffith killing, sodomizing, and eating Don Knotts whole than see underaged girls gifted to their fathers’ business partners and/or religious leaders. UGGH!
Here at the Spencer’s Gift Novelty Lights Testing Facility, we make sure all of our products are just what your next rave needs to achieve peak freak out!
“I know the nuns said that the Catholic school uniform dress code was strictly enforced, Father, but all this over a Hello Kitty hair clip?!”
“Whoa there, Debbie Harry, save some for the rest of us! That shit’s supposed to last us until Thursday.”
Napoleon Dynamite’s father, Cornelius T. Dynamite, seen here in the last known photo of him before “the accident”.
Before Toys For Tots initiated their “New Unopened Items ONLY” policy on donations, this was the scene for many a tear streaked face on Christmas morning. If I ever find the person that “donated” the limbless Hordak torso I ended up with in ’91, the aftermath will make Pol Pot’s ghost vomit.
“For the love of Harry Smith, THAT’S what my colon looks like?! Where do the polyps end and my pooper begins?! I think I’m going to be sick.”
Anubis will return next time in
“Adolf Hitler’s Muppet Babies”
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