Jared Harris plays a professor who conducts dangerous experiments in the British horror The Quiet Ones.
THE QUIET ONES (15)
Inspired by a real-life incident – valuable currency for a horror film – The Quiet Ones relives a troubling case of demonic possession that claimed the lives of a team of scientists.
It’s immaterial that John Pogue’s film is grounded in the contentious facts of the infamous Philip Experiment, which saw Canadian parapsychologists test their theory that the human mind is responsible for manifestations attributed to ghosts.
All blood-lusting audiences will care about is the number of jump-out-of-your seats shocks and wince-inducing scares that the director and his two co-writers, Craig Rosenberg and Oren Moverman, have crammed into 98 minutes.
Disappointingly, you can count them on two fingers.
Admittedly, the film does boast one devilishly teasing scene of impending carnage involving a character unwittingly resting her head in the wrong place, where clumps of her hair can be torn from her scalp.
Pogue intentionally allows the scene to drag on, heightening our discomfort until we can barely look at the screen.
For the most part, though, The Quiet Ones resorts to staples of the genre – creaking doors that open of their own accord, figures emerging suddenly from the darkness – which can be anticipated well in advance.
The screenplay transplants the malevolent mind games from Toronto to the dreaming spires of 1970s Oxford.
Professor Coupland (Jared Harris) is convinced there is a direct link between paranormal activity and human negative energy.
He ignores university protocols and conducts a secret experiment on a troubled patient, Jane Harper (Olivia Cooke), aided by two students, Kristina Dalton (Erin Richards) and Harry Abrams (Rory Fleck-Byrne).
Cameraman Brian McNeil (Sam Claflin) is recruited to the team to provide the evidence that will send shockwaves through the academic establishment.
“Your job will be to document every step of the experiment,” explains Coupland.
“I hope you don’t scare easily,” he adds, ominously.
The professor takes Brian to a house where Jane is being willingly held in a locked room for her own safety.
The girl believes she is in the thrall of a dark spirit called Evie and the professor is determined to heal his ward, but as the experiments gather momentum, the team witnesses alarming visions that defy rational explanation.
The Quiet Ones is the latest offering from the Hammer Film stable, which sent shivers down collective spines with the 2012 chiller The Woman In Black.
Pogue’s film falls short of that journey into supernatural madness.
Harris teeters on the brink of hysteria throughout, leaving younger co-stars – some of whom are making their film debuts – to curry our sympathy.
The relationship between Claflin and Cooke provides us with an emotional anchor but the script skimps on character development until the closing 10 minutes when a flood of outlandish exposition attempts to wrap everything up with a hellish final flourish.
THE RAID 2 (18)
In 2011, Welsh-born writer-director Gareth Evans gave Hollywood action movies a swift kick between the legs with his dazzling assault on the senses, The Raid.
The film invited Indonesia’s celebrated fight choreographers and stunt performers to create some of the most jaw-dropping skirmishes ever committed to celluloid.
The result was a 90-minute orgy of balletic martial arts moves, fractured limbs and gratuitous blood-letting.
This explosive sequel unfolds in the immediate aftermath of the first film.
Fans of Evans’s hyperkinetic direction – cameras whirling around the cast at dizzying speed as they perform death-defying acrobatics – will be whooping with glee at the miasma of on-screen destruction and devastation.
A protracted fight-sequence, performed inside a car during a high-speed chase, is extraordinary.
However, while the first film hung all of its brilliantly executed stunts on a gossamer-thin narrative, the sequel goes to the other extreme and punctuates its hack and slash with a convoluted tale of corruption that bloats the running time to an uncomfortable two-and-a-half hours.
When we left rookie cop Rama (Iko Uwais), he had barely survived the ascent of a 15-storey Jakarta tower block and apprehended a traitor in the ranks.
Before he can catch his breath, Rama is interrogated by Bunawar (Cok Simbara), head of an anti-corruption task force, which is dedicated to weeding out all the bad apples in the force.
“There’s no such thing as a clean war in this world,” explains Bunawar before he outlines his master plan: to send Rama deep undercover in prison to befriend Uco (Arifin Putra), the son of local kingpin Bangun (Tio Pakusodewu).
If Rama can get close to Uco, he can infiltrate Bangun’s criminal network and bring it down from the inside.
Thus Rama cuts himself off from his wife and child and adopts a new guise behind bars to impress his target.
A fight in the mud-slathered prison yard galvanises the relationship between the cop and heir apparent, and eventually Rama is welcomed into Bangun’s inner sanctum.
Meanwhile, power-hungry rival Bejo (Alex Abbad) sets in motion a cunning plan to take control of the city.
The Raid 2 bludgeons us into exhausted submission with its action sequences, including some ferocious interludes involving the aptly named Hammer Girl (Julie Estelle) and Baseball Bat Man (Very Tri Yulisman).
You quickly lose count of the number of crushed craniums as Uwais cuts a swathe through crowds of heavily armed henchmen and meets his match in a lethal assassin (Cecep Arif Rahman).
The violence and sadism are unrelenting and the body count is astronomical.
Regrettably, the twists and turns of the somewhat impenetrable plot are even more dizzying than Evans’ camerawork.
The writer-director’s ambition is admirable but his attempts to flesh out this brutal universe induce brain-ache.