The Diabolical, 2015
Directed by Alistair Legrand
Starring Ali Larter, Max Rose, Chloe Perrin, Patrick Fischler, Arjun Gupta
Madison, a single mother, and her children, are awoken nightly by an increasingly strange and intense presence. She seeks help from her scientist boyfriend Nikolai, who begins a hunt to destroy the violent spirit that paranormal experts are too frightened to take on.
As director director Alistar Legrand said in the post-screening Q&A for The Diabolical, cinema screens have been inundated with seemingly nothing but ghost stories over the last few years. Having gotten past the meta-horror of the early 2000s and the torture porn that came off the back of Saw and Hostel, we’ve been handed a lot of movies based around ghosts and possessions mostly to middling results. But what The Diabolical looks to do is to take the tropes and stories of movies like Sinister, The Conjuring and Insidious and turn them on their heads.
The always brilliant Ali Larter plays single mother Madison, who is currently on the verge of going bankrupt. And while money is an issue, the bigger problem is the haunting creatures that show up in her house on a near-nightly basis that terrify her and her children. No paranormal scientists will touch them, and it seems as though the visits are becoming more frequent.
Despite using several tried and tested methods to create tension and scares, The Diabolical does feel fresh in a currently unfresh subgenre. It drops us into the families routine where the hauntings have been going on for so long they’re almost a way of life for them now. They have their methods of dealing with them, and now they’re just trying to get on with life. It’s a nice twist on the genre conventions, and it really sets the movie apart from its contemporaries.
Further to this is Legrand’s desires to not just make a straight-up ghost movie; and because of that The Diabolical feels unpredictable. For the first time in ages watching one of these movies, we’re not just trying to work out why the spirits are attacking them, but where they are coming from – and if they’re really spirits at all. It demands repeat viewings as several clues and hints are dropped along the way to explain the ending, which will be fun to discover along the way.
However, the ending will turn some audiences. Without going into any spoilers here, The Diabolical presents a very radical idea on the ghost story genre, but it could almost be too out there for some people to wrap their heads around. Its genius really, but when said out loud it feels a touch ludicrous. Further to that, the story then becomes fairly convoluted which can frustrate those who have stuck with it so far, but perhaps this ties back into the repeat viewings argument from earlier.
As before stated, Ali Larter is absolutely stunning in almost every film she’s in and she’s brilliant once again here. She commands the screen and has such a genuine connection with her co-stars that you buy into her every action. Her relationship with Nick is really sweet and the scenes she shares with her kids are truly special. Extra props should be given to the two children of the movie who pull out superb performances. It’s even more amazing when you think that Legrand only had half a day with each kid.
Far from actually being diabolical, The Diabolical is a gorgeous looking movie, and one you should definitely check out. Will the reveal work for everyone? Probably not. Chances are it won’t work for a good 70% of its audience. But the narrative is so engaging and the performances are so gripping that its worth a shot to see if you do. This is Legrand’s first feature movie, and he should be a director on everyone’s radar.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Luke Owen is the Deputy Editor of Flickering Myth and the host of the Flickering Myth Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @LukeWritesStuff.