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The Quiet Ones and Phantasm IV: Oblivion :: Saturday Horror Movie Double-Feature

As we near the end of August and head into the spookiest season of all (just wait until October, we may overdose you readers on horror double-features), we ended our Phantasm franchise-a-thon (well, until the fifth and final installment is released) and took a visit a cinematic trip back to the 1970’s via Hammer pictures to bear witness to a “based on a true story” college experiment gone wrong for this installment of our Saturday Horror Movie Double-Feature.

The Phantasm series quasi-ended (they thought it was the end when the 4th went “straight to video“) in a state of confusion, leaving much to the audience’s interpretation. The Quiet Ones had its share of confusing moments, too, especially in terms of the title (mentioned once in the film, though no one was ever quiet), and in the “was it true, wasn’t it” regard. It was a unique take on the “found footage” genre though, with some pretty good performances and an actual ending (though there were still questions leftover).

So, come on, have a seat and take a look into the night of macabre we found ourselves in. We watch the movies so you don’t have to, or so you can feel inspired to. As a reminder, we will be doing these reviews every other week, trading off with our year-by-year drive-in feature, so stay tuned for more and please send us your horror movie suggestions. You can give us some titles in the comment section, or email me directly at lyrique.discorde@gmail.com. Please note, no choice is too cheesy or possibly bad, we accept the challenge to watch them all, the good, the bad, the awful, the hilarious, and everything in-between.

Special note: We will be doing all weekends horror in October, so we welcome some suggestions to add to our scary-cinematic-play-lists and queues.

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The Quiet Ones (2014)
Written by Craig Rosenberg, Oren Moverman, John Pogue and Tom de Ville
Directed by John Pogue

The Quiet Ones starts rather disjointedly, with an apparent classroom setting/audition for a filmmaker to join in a dangerous, and somewhat reviled experiment led by Professor Joseph Coupland (Jared Harris)  who has been usurping university grant money to keep his obsessive test going.

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The test subject is a young pale girl who at first glance fits that “every possessed girl in recent horror movies” look, you know the one, long dark hair, paler than death skin, sunken wide dark eyes that are best to cast that dead doll eye stare with. This is Jane (Olivia Cooke), who is locked behind a door with a slide window to peer into, and who is subjected to countless loud playings of Slade’s Cum on Feel the Noise and Telegram Sam. I guess the professor hoped to find healing powers to be found in Glam Rock (hey, it always makes me feel better).

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Professor Joseph has two rather gullible sidekicks helping him out. One is a striking blonde, Erin (Krissi Dalton) who we get the impression is in love with the professor and the object of affection (which she indulges now and then) of the other sidekick, a stoner stereotype, Harry (Rory Fleck-Byrne) who seems to be there to give the illusion that this is all harmless.

The experiment has to do with a hypothesis that the Professor is trying to prove is that there is no possession or supernatural happenings, that it is all mental illness manifestations. Jane is seemingly haunted by a girl, or is it a doll, named Evie, or is she Evie herself, or has she made-up Evie in her mind completely because of a yet completely diagnosed illness?

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The film-maker is a naive, young student, Brian ( who seems to be so far out of his element that you have to wonder (often) why he stays. He falls hard and fast for young Jane, who when she isn’t channeling (or manifesting) evil Evie is quite winsome and rather heartbreaking. Or is that damsel in distress quality just one that Brian is manifesting?

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The movie has some scares, though any of the “jump scare” variety seem to all take place at the end of the film. Mostly though, it is an interesting study on human behavior, scientific studies that veer into obsessions (usually brought on by personal loss), and the thin line between belief in the supernatural and the complexities of mental illness. I enjoyed certain elements of the characters, most especially in Jane herself. It was interesting to watch all her layers unfurl, the hopeful victim so sure that the Professor can cure her, the vibrant young woman who wants to shed her young girl trappings and experience a real life, and possibly love.

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I really enjoyed Olivia Cooke’s performance as Evie. I’ve enjoyed her work on the TV series, Bates Motel, but this really took her to phenomenal places in her acting. Jared Harris is superb, too, another actor I enjoyed immensely as a reoccurring villain in the Fringe television series.

What is real and what isn’t, what is faked and what is fantasy, and what is truly a possession or a bad case of post-cult-stress-syndrome all becomes so convoluted that at times the movie became hard to follow. There were plot points that veered off in confusing directions, and a reveal that happens towards the end that I feel wasn’t executed in the right way. The end though, especially the real life photos shown in the credits, was well done.

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All in all, some great performances, compelling writing and set-up, and a decent ending. That said, the movie could have used some extra editing in a few key scenes, and some better constructed suspense to give the reveal and ending an extra punch.

Thoughts from my husband:

Its a little known fact that I grew up on Hammer films. How can you not enjoy the feeling of tension that actors, like Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, are able to portray in well-written scripts, with little need for gratuitous gore. It was a sad day when they stopped making films in the late 70’s. In The Quiet Ones they seemed to have come back with a vengeance. Not only is this a found footage done right, but it is well-paced, with minimal graphics, much like the Hammer of old.

My only complaint would have to be the over-used “based on a true story” caveat that seems to be used in everything, ad nauseam, in so many categories. Other than that, it is well-worth checking out.

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A few fun facts:

The film is loosely based on the Philip experiment, a 1972 parapsychology experiment conducted in Toronto.

Hammer Films is a film production company founded in 1934, in the United Kingdom. The company is best known for a series of Gothic “Hammer Horror” films made from the mid-1950’s until the 1970’s.

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Phantasm IV: Oblivion
Written and Directed by Don Coscarelli

Here we are back with the Morningside gang for our last (for now) installment from the Phantasm franchise. We meet back up where we left off, with Reggie attached to the wall of the Tall Man’s latest mortuary by MANY sentinels, Mike has taken the hearse with a coffin and is heading to Death Valley, which honestly seems like too ominous of a place to go in this universe, but hey, its better than Funeral Mountain, that we see a sign for, I suppose. Jody is still part sentinel, part human (maybe?) and keeps visiting both Reggie and Mike to give them directions, or lead them astray. We also get to see the origin story of the Tall Man.

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There was a hell of a lot of confusing, convoluted plotting in this film. At times it felt too cut and paste with all the “extra footage” used from the first film, at other times there were too many variables and too little answers to wade through. My other problem with this one was the lack of lightness and humor.

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The other had moments of levity, usually gifted to us by Reggie and his foibles with women and his now characteristic one-liners, but most of that was missing this time around. Yes, our favorite Ice Cream Man is pretty worn out now, and yes, he’s probably lost his sense of humor, what with The Tall Man taking over the earth one small, nowhere town at a time, but I missed the old Reggie.

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There were some small Reggie moments, especially when he rescues the woman from her overturned car (overturned to avoid running over a turtle), but it wasn’t near what we’ve grown accustomed to. The third film remains my favorite, especially for the trio of Reggie, Tim and Rocky, who together brought both humor and warmth to the dark tale, as well as introduce a kick ass female character (Rocky), which was also a missing element in this installment.

I look forward to the fifth and final movie, if it ever is released (it originally was slated for an October 2014 release, but now is listed as 2015). Now on to our next franchise – stayed tune to find out what it will be!

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Thoughts from my husband:

Phantasm IV is my third favorite of the franchise (running very close with the first film). This one takes the surreal, dreamlike quality and ups it by utilizing a lot of cut footage from the first film in order to make you feel as if you were dealing with flashbacks, leaving the viewer to form their own conclusions as to how the story ends.

I myself feel that the end scene is the true ending of the franchise (at least until Phantasm 5 comes out next year) mainly due to small hints given throughout the film. Primarily The Tall Man telling Reggie point blank that it’s all in Micheal’s mind and Jody whispering that he actually died in the car crash, leads me to believe that everything from the end scene in the first film to before the last scene in this film takes place in Mike’s mind as a coping mechanism for the loss of his entire family.

I’m sure with what’s in mind for the next film, that theory will be shot to shit. But, still a franchise worth checking out and deserving of a Blu Ray release.

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A few fun facts:

One very difficult scripted sequence required filming on Wilshire Boulevard, the largest street in Los Angeles, only it had to be devoid of any people. As closing this major thoroughfare would be impossible and massively expensive, Don Coscarelli and his crew came up with a novel approach. Just minutes before sunrise on Thanksgiving holiday morning, the crew was ready to film, guerrilla-style, with the key actors A. Michael Baldwin and Angus Scrimm. They took over the street, without permission, and had ten uninterrupted minutes of filming with absolutely not a soul in sight. They only had that roughly ten minutes to film, but still managed to shoot the scene as they wanted it.

Roger Avary, a self-confessed hardcore fan of the Phantasm series, wrote an epic screenplay originally called Phantasm 1999 A.D. as a follow-up to Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead (1994). It was set in a post-apocalyptic near future, featuring Bruce Campbell as a co-star. As the time passed and they couldn’t get the budget needed (around $10 million) Don Coscarelli wrote and directed this fourth installment as a pre-cursor to the project, that was conveniently re-titled Phantasm 2012 A.D. before sticking into Phantasm’s End as the definitive title. Ultimately, when the financing for such an ambitious sequel couldn’t be secured, the idea was scrapped altogether.

The synopsis for the canceled Phantasm’s End script written by Roger Avary goes as it follows:

“The year is 2012 and there are only three U.S. states left. Between New York and California is the wasteland known as the Plague Zone. Unfortunately, the evil Tall Man controls that area. Since many people are dead, the Tall Man is able to make thousands of dwarf slaves for his planet daily in the Mormon Mausoleum. Besides him, the other residents are “baggers,” human-like creatures that are infected by the Tall Man’s blood, the dwarves, and, of course, the silver spheres, all trying to break out of the barrier that contains them and into the real world. A group of hi-tech troops are sent in to destroy the red dimension where the Tall Man gets his power. Reggie follows so he can find Mike after a series of nightmares he had. Will they be able to finally destroy the Tall Man for good?”

The dwarf that gets shot in the face with the hand-gun by Reggie was played by a very young Wendy Coscarelli, Don Coscarelli’s daughter.

Don Coscarelli’s son, Andy, as well as fans Todd Mecklem and Roger Avary have cameos in the Civil War flashback.

The dagger seen in the film is the same prop used in the first of the franchise, Phantasm (1979).

This installment in the franchsie, is the only in the series to not end up with a character being pulled through a glass.

Tribute to all 4 films – goodbye (for now) Phantasm series

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