A university professor and some students are conducting an experiment on a young woman who appears to be possessed by the spirit of a child. With the hypothesis that the unusual events are from psychological trauma rather than the supernatural, the whole experiment is being recorded on film. But unsurprisingly, things do not go quite as planned.
The events are set in the 1970s, and there are many interesting and fun details in the set design, props, and costumes. In some scenes the tension is well built and maintained, and there's a genuinely creepy atmosphere. In the first half of the film, there are some effective jump scares that totally took me by surprise, and the special effects are generally decent. That is, during the first half.
Unfortunately, as the film progresses, the jump scares become more predictable and rely on 'false' shocks accompanied by a sudden blast of sound. There's even one where someone goes BOO at a window. The CGI starts to become more noticeable later on, and in one scene - when a huge serpent thing shoots out of someone's mouth (it's shown in the trailer) it's so blatantly computer generated it almost completely destroys any credibility the movie had in the build up to it.
I understand that, in the 1970s, many people smoked, and would do so almost anywhere. And that happens here. Except they seem to be trying hard to look like they're smoking, without actually doing it. Whether by not inhaling/exhaling the smoke, or holding the cigarette unconvincingly, it's one of those details that - once you notice it - it seems to shout at you every time.
The main cast is fairly small. Brian the cameraman is the 'new boy' who brings the viewer into the story, and I found him to be the only really likable character. I found Professor Coupland intensely irritating. Not only for his annoying, dogged insistence that the events are not supernatural (as various objects fly around the room, or spontaneously combust). He also comes across as quite creepy in a lecherous way, and for me the acting seemed a little too hammy. There is a blonde girl whose main purpose appears to be to wear hilarious 70s fashions and sleep with the men; and a barely memorable curly-haired guy who does very little of interest. The girl at the centre of the experiment - Jane - looks like a grown-up Wednesday Addams, and is potentially the most interesting part of the story. But something about the actress's performance made it hard for me to find the character believable.
The film borrows from (or pays homage to) other movies, particularly The Haunting (1963) with a sequence involving loud pounding outside the room; and possibly [Rec] (2007) when characters run around the dark rooms with a hand-held camera and a single light source.
The story does have a surprise reveal towards the end, then a further twist in the final shot, which were ok but nothing to get over-excited about. After The Woman In Black (2012) which was a decent and interesting ghost story, I found The Quiet Ones quite disappointing. The first half shows promise and the story (combining psychology, paranormal activity, possession and evil cults) is intriguing. But with most of the characters being unsympathetic or uninteresting, and more horror cliches coming into the second half of the film, the final result is watchable but not remarkable. Finally, if you do decide to watch this, I recommend you avoid the trailer, unless you want a disappointing sense of deja vu at the key scenes. 3/5