Hammer's resurgence continues with this latest proffering - another very British ghost yarn in the restrained mould of THE WOMAN IN BLACK.

It's set in 1974. Professor Coupland (Jared Harris) teaches at a countryside college, where he tries his best to convince his students that ghosts are negative energy that's been manifested by disturbed individuals. He shows his class vintage footage of a former subject - David Q - and then suggests embarking on an experiment with a couple of game students, in which he hopes to "cure" a new subject: abandoned foster child Jane (Olivia Cooke).

Coupland has rescued Jane from an asylum, he tells volunteering students Harry (Rory Fleck-Byrne) and his horny blonde girlfriend Krissi (Erin Richards). She comes with the most disconcerting kind of baggage: tales of homes she's lived in being burned to the ground, claims that she's haunted and so on. Coupland believes she's mentally ill: "cure the individual and you can cure all mankind", he insists.

The professor and his two freshly recruited lackeys take Jane to a remote house in the country where they plan to experiment on her, in a bid to coax her into "manifesting" her inner demons. Specifically, she claims to be in collusion with a girl called Evey. Coupland believes this is a character Jane has created in her head to help cope with past traumas...

Also along for the ride is AV student Brian (Sam Claflin), a likeable novice with no experience of either psychology or the paranormal but a willingness to film, well, anything. And so, Coupland tasks him with documenting as much of the experiment as he can on his trusty 16mm camera.

Yes, folks, even Hammer are getting in on the contemporary trend of handheld documentary-style filmmaking...

But, at least, only in part. Thankfully the bulk of THE QUIET ONES is shot on 35mm with the use of steadicams, tripods etc. It's actually a very slick, handsome-looking production. Perhaps too much so, as the whole thing feels somewhat sanitised from the get-go. I mean, I thought THE WOMAN IN BLACK was tepid, but it's positively terrifying in comparison to this.

I digress. Once the professor etc get Jane to their remote dwelling, the experiments begin. These apparently involve flashing lights in Jane's eyes, barking at her in an attempt to make her "dig deeper" into her psyche, injecting her with unnamed drugs and spouting nonsense such as "EMF level 2 increased" whenever their subject convulses. Brian films it all diligently, though his unease grows as he becomes closer to the demure Jane, and suspects that Coupland favours fame over his patient's best interests.

All of which makes for a relatively simple, mildly diverting set-up. But something spooky needs to happen at some point, right? Well, 43 minutes in, we finally get "evidence" of Jane's possession. Alas, this revelatory moment relies on really crappy CGI and therefore doesn't really make anything that follows remotely threatening. It doesn't help matters that Cooke isn't convincing in her role as a 'creepy' kid or that the only vaguely sympathetic character is wet-behind-the-ears Brian.

The setting is nice, the cinematography is suitably attractive and there are admittedly a couple of twists later into proceedings that are worth sticking around for. But director John Pogue's much-touted "70s vibe" is superficial, evoked through characters who smoke a lot more than most do nowadays and an inordinate amount of Slade music (!) on the soundtrack. Worse still, this just isn't scary.

Oh, and am I the only one who thought it was odd that Brian's film was all scratchy and damaged when he ran it through a projector, despite having only shot that footage a few hours earlier?! A trifling point, perhaps, but it should help illustrate how sloppy this surface-slick production actually is.

Lionsgate's UK DVD presents THE QUIET ONES uncut and in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Enhanced for 16x9 televisions, the picture quality is very good: strong blacks, natural colours, lots of detail.

English audio is presented in a well-balanced, evenly separated 5.1 mix. Optional subtitles in English for the Hard of Hearing are easily readable and suffer only the occasional typing error.

The disc's animated main menu page leads to a static scene selection menu, which allows access to the film via 12 chapters.

Bonus features commence with a fluent and erudite commentary track from Pogue and producer Tobin Armbrust. It makes for an interesting listen, the pair of them covering an impressive amount of detail.

A 33-minute Making Of documentary follows. Entitled "Welcome to the Experiment", this offers an excellent mix of talking-head soundbites and behind-the-scenes clips. Fair enough, a lot of what's covered is duplicated from the audio commentary - thoughts on the casting; the loyalty felt towards Hammer's legacy; Pogue's development of the original script etc - but it's still a very slick, involving watch. Original screenwriter Tom DeVille reveals his source inspiration too: a fascinating story of a manmade ghost called Phillip...

"Manifesting Evil" is an 8-minute look at the film's visual effects, starting from the opening SEVEN-esque titles and moving on from there.

26 minutes of deleted scenes and a 3-minute 'gag reel' round off a pretty impressive set of extras.

THE QUIET ONES is a very polite, I daresay timid, horror thriller. It lacks originality and suffers from a couple of misjudged performances. It looks nice but, truthfully, I can't really say much more about it.

Let's hope Hammer hit the jackpot with their next production, because this one's a bit of a let-down.

Nice disc from Lionsgate, though.

Also available on blu-ray.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Lionsgate
Region 2
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review