Well, this is awkward. It would seem your favorite cynical zeppelin crewman is apparently the ONLY person on the internet that is not vomiting high praise on the indie sci-fi thriller The Quiet Hour. Sorry did that sound harsh? I simply meant I couldn’t see what all the fuss is about. Stop propping films up on a crutch because they’re ‘low-budget’ and just judge them according to fundamental standards of film – not how much money a director had at their disposal.
I find it incredibly annoying to give a handicap to films and then skate over a thorough criticism. Let’s just call a spade a spade and say ‘sure it’s a low-budget film, but is the addition of more money going to improve the story or the acting?’ It seems easy enough for all these other critiques – full of their banal buzzwords – to demonize big budget sci-fi films for lack of substance, but where in the big book of film has money ever translated into quality? That’s ACROSS the spectrum, not simply a reservation for the blockbusters.
While I am curious about the actual budget of Quiet Hour (someone please comment the answer since I could not readily find it online), I don’t see it as the crux responsible for this film’s problems. Let’s take Moon as a counter-example: it had a budget of roughly $5 Million and was essentially perfect in every regard as a sci-fi thriller. Ok, maybe shave some of that budget off. The original Mad Max was what…$350k? It’s still a pillar of science fiction. Primer? Yeah, only $7,000 and it’s often cited as an experimental masterpiece.
The Quiet Hour isn’t necessarily a bad film because I say I don’t agree with all the hullaballoo on the internet. It’s a film on a post-apocalyptic road trip that unfortunately gets a flat tire and just kind of gives up after its initial suspense and excitement. Everyone WANTS to drive across the country, but no one wants to physically have to be stuck in a car for that long. That’s more or less how this movie cannibalizes itself – the premise is great, but it never quite delivers a satisfying resolution to all the teasing of a suspense-thriller.
Dakota Blue Richards plays Sarah – a teenage girl living in the aftermath of an alien invasion in rural Britain. She is accompanied by her brother Tom (Jack McMullen) who was blinded during the initial extraterrestrial encroachment. There’s some exposition-as-a-plot-device whereby the characters are offered a twice daily reprieve from the aliens which only lasts an hour. Gotcha – it’s the ‘quiet’ hour.
When a mysterious stranger named Jude (Karl Davies) winds up at their door, Sarah and Tom suddenly have a more immediate danger as the drifter is pursued by a band of revenge-seeking vagrants. Sarah must choose the lesser of two evils, whilst simultaneously balancing the hopelessness of her family’s situation with the constant threat of being blasted into dust by a giant fucking alien death-laser. (Don’t worry – the aliens apparently can’t see through blankets). Asbestos is your shield? Really?
Since budget seems to be on everyone’s minds, let’s knock that argument out and be done with it once and for all. Most folks will probably say that –with more money – director Stéphanie Joalland could have accentuated the existing sci-fi elements in her directorial debut and delivered a more compelling story. Wrong! The most compelling aspect of Quiet Hour is that it accomplishes so much without the use of a heavy dose of alien mayhem. Aside from the Epoch looking carrier ships and a few crudely rendered scout ships, there isn’t any need for visual stimuli to build dread in this movie.
Suspense is the absence of action, and this movie is suspenseful…to a point. The magic of the post-apocalyptic genre is that low-budget films can accomplish the same goals and examine the same themes as their expensive brethren (or at least try to). Let’s make another comparison, shall we?
Quiet Hour is nearly identical in tone to Viggo Mortensen’s The Road back in 2009. They both have the usual suspects of post-apocalyptia like cannibals, scavenging, shotguns, drifters, and most importantly – desperation. The difference is that The Road focuses more on the action sequences to complement dramatic encounters whereas Quiet Hour relies on intimate dialogue to try and flesh out the characters and the plot. Also, QH felt like a cheap derivative of The Road only with the stoicism of British actors, so there’s that quick jab.
I will say that both Richards and McMullen deliver fairly genuine performances, and for the most part I as an audience member felt invested in their characters. What I wanted – no – what I craved was more of an exchange between Karl Davies and Dakota Richards. Davies is masterful in crafting his Jude because for the first part of the film the audience really is challenged to trust someone they clearly have no business trusting.
Where this movie falls apart for me, is in the gradual fizzling out of the tension. You expect Jude to reveal himself as a turn-cloak or some self-serving monster, but Quiet Hour never takes advantage of the characters potential (or anything really). It quietly bubbles with tension and then quietly steps out for a cigarette when you aren’t paying attention. If we’re to treat the slow-paced first half of the film as an allusion its title, the expectation ought to be that there’s a less-than-quiet second hour, but there just isn’t any reward to an otherwise tense build-up.
There, chew on that you film cannibals. I’m slandering a movie because it failed to take full advantage of its resources (other than money). Oh, and some of the more out-of-place dialogue and action sequences – those were pretty irritating as well. Mein Gott! I also forgot to mention the unbelievable weakness and non-threat posed by any of the antagonists – aliens and vagabonds alike. “Rawr, I’m a rapist cannibal come to ruin your day.” “Sorry! We’re not home!” “Oh alright then, I’ll just try back later.” (That’s essentially a scene). Oh well, the villains probably were no match for those magical blankets anyways…
Whatever, this is a film that just didn’t quench my cinematic palette enough to where I could wholeheartedly recommend spending two quiet hours watching it. There are a number of particularly good sequences, but the rest of the story and characters seem poorly fleshed out, if not outright wasted. It’s dull, unoriginal, and not worth your time to watch the trailer (but it’s included anyways). If you want compelling, low-budget sci-fi, then stick with something like Primer, Moon, Safety Not Guaranteed, or hell – while we’re on the subject of silence just rent The Quiet Earth. Better yet –Cashback was low-budget and had a pretty cool fantasy gimmick to it. Take a bite out of one of those! Nomnomnom
At any rate, thanks as always to my friends over at Other Worlds Austin for their tireless efforts to bring indie sci-fi to Central Texas. I may not have fallen in love with this particular film, but I appreciated it nonetheless. If you haven’t checked them out yet, I encourage you to at least peruse their website and consider purchasing a wristband for their sophomore festival coming up in December. It’s like $40, and you get to see some truly remarkable features films and shorts. Who knows, you might even see something yours truly wrote in a few years’ time (though procrastination is a bitch).
The Bottom Line:
Meh…this British sci-fi film just wasn’t my cup of tea. Oh, and before you attempt to make the argument that I’m simply judgmental because this isn’t some action-packed thriller – just know that I have a slew of far more boring sci-fi citations to counter with. Just wait until I do my Solaris vs. Solaris piece. You don’t know the meaning of slow-paced!
Expect a low-budget rebuttal recommendation tomorrow.