At The Movies
This is from the legendary Hammer studio and it is a quiet low key film that takes it time establishing its creepy mood. This is just a soft way of saying that this film dragged quite a bit especially in the middle. The story is not very original or interesting but the cast do it fairly well and there are some scares leading up to the fairly so-so ending. Apparently based on true events like that matters but may be the justification for the slow pace.
Cambridge University Professor Coupland (Jared Harris) is working on his theory that supernatural phenomena are produced by some sort of energy from the human mind and to test his theory he is going to try to cure Jane Harper (Olivia Cooke), a young woman so haunted by poltergeist activity that she seriously contemplates suicide. All of her life she has been passed from one foster home to next when each family become aware of the strange supernatural forces that follow her.
Coupland has two very loyal students assisting him Kristina Dalton (Erin Richards) and Harry Abrams (Rory Fleck-Byrne) who are cultishly devoted to him. Coupland has also hired Brian McNiel (Sam Claflin) a young cameraman to document The Experiment. Brian is an outsider so is the natural sympathetic protagonist for the audience while is everyone else is so confident the Professor’s bizarre theories.
When the noise of the loud rock music (Slade – Cum on Feel The Noize and is about the only significant detail that nails the period to the 70s) used to stop Jane from sleeping disturbs the neighbours Coupland finds himself hauled before the University authorities and deprived of funds or premises. Coupland moves The Experiment to a large remote house in the country to keep going without interference. Of course Harry and Kristina agree to keep going but Brian agrees to carry on at this stage out of curiosity and his feelings for Jane. It seems unlikely that if this was official sanctioned research it would be getting held in town with neighbours that could be disturbed even in the 70s
There is a slow escalation of strange events involving the well-used horror technique of long quiet moments followed by jump scares and Brian manages to catch some of it on film. Brian gets increasingly concerned for Jane’s safety when he sees the lengths to which Coupland will go to force a psychic response from Jane. The techniques they are using amount to torture and the only thing stopping Brian going to the authorities is Jane’s willing participation because she is desperate for a cure.
The last part of the film is where conflicts heighten as secrets get revealed and the supernatural freakery gets to dangerous levels. It wasn’t as predictable as thought it was going to be but the ending scene itself was right out of the box of dusty old horror clichés. Coupland portrays himself as a heroic sceptic taking on the supernatural by trying to explain it away with scientific sounding jargon and lots of apparatus but there were lots of clues that his outlook is like a dogmatic religious position especially the scene at the start with the rejection of the non-believer who has moral objections to The Experiment. Brian is the real sceptic in the film investigating the Professor’s history and making it clear that the evidence he has filmed is not really evidence as even he suspects fakery.
This film was just not very notable. It did hold my attention while watching but apart from the jumps it didn’t really do very much to disturb or unsettle me and my attention did wander in the middle and I noticed the three wee bastards two rows in front mucking about on their smartphones. There was a 70s setting that was barely used apart from costumes, music and a lack of modern technology. Jared Harris is good as usual in the mad scientist role giving the character a vulnerability and humanity. Olivia Cooke is also good in the part of Jane Harper. This is a film that is okay to pass the time if it happens to be on TV or streaming on the internet but it’s just nothing special.