The Quiet Ones is the sixth movie to come out of Britain’s Hammer studios since it was bought in 2007 by Dutch consortium Cyrte Investments (the investment company of Dutch media mogul Jon de Mol, inventor of Big Brother). The film has a possessed girl being monitored by an unorthodox professor (when are they ever anything but unorthodox?) in a faded country house outside Oxford in 1974 – a year after The Exorcist was released in cinemas, a story this film makes several appreciative references to. It’s schlocky and excitable, but has plenty going for it, not least its occasional feel of an Ian McEwan short story – the thick mixture of the rainy, desolate, fag-end of summer and sexual tensions among the professor and his students.
Crucially, this movie has in its clutches something quintessentially and exquisitely late-1950s Hammer: Jared Harris as the professor. The son of Irish actor Richard Harris and Elizabeth Rees-Williams, a Welsh baron’s daughter once also married to Rex Harrison, Jared Harris has always – even when he started acting at 25 – felt like a throwback. Now he looks and feels the age he was born to be, the age of all great actors at their best, early fifties (when Cary Grant was making Hitchcock, and Bogart The African Queen). He speaks in a way that reminds us of those icons being interviewed on old TV chat shows with giant tumblers of whisky in their hands. He even smokes like them, and his unlovely, pockmarked cheeks make you think of Richard Burton. But crucially here his absolute seriousness, his refusal to camp anything up, puts him in the same league as Peter Cushing, who was early Hammer’s greatest asset. There is simply nothing more Hammer than Jared Harris in The Quiet Ones.