The Diabolical, 2015.
Directed by Alistair Legrand.
Starring Ali Larter, Max Rose, Chloe Perrin, Patrick Fischler and 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.
The haunted house and the terrorized family sub-genre has become one of the most lucrative – and therefore one of the most exploited – categories in modern motion pictures. It really became personified by the original The Amityville Horror (1979), with its solid build up to a chaotic meltdown that defined the central characters, and since then, the genre has gone through the roof with haunted families and terrorized houses (or is the other way around?) with everything from Poltergeist, to Insidious, and even more recently and obscurely with titles like The Pact, which was produced by one of the producers of this particular film known as The Diabolical. A good haunted house / terrorized family movie should have a scary title, and if we’re comparing titles, The Diabolical is a little more insidious than The Pact. Talk about Conjuring a haunting name for a movie!
In the first few minutes of The Diabolical, single, struggling mother Madison (Ali Larter, who doesn’t really look like she’s had two kids, but whatever) is trying to manage the mounting bills one evening when a diabolical looking specter appears and gives her quite a fright. The ghostly (but tangible) image is of a decomposing looking male figure with sinewy goop covering his wet, icky face, and by closing her eyes and willing the thing to go away, she succeeds, thinking perhaps she imagined it all. The title of the movie comes up ominously, and by shoving the audience into Madison’s nightmare, we’re set to enter into a strange, Twilight Zone-type situation where Madison and her two children become susceptible to whatever monstrous thing this “diabolical” man is. He returns nightly to scare them, but when he disappears, it’s as if he flickers off, and it gets to the point that Madison’s kids cannot leave the house without succumbing to an alarming symptom where their faces vein up with black, sinister looking webs, and so she quarantines them all in the house so that she can try to figure out just what the heck is going on. Her boyfriend Nikolai (Arjun Gupta) is a scientist of some kind, and he works at a nearby research lab where they’re experimenting with teleportation, which may have some ties to what is going on in her house, but when a mysterious salesman shows up at the door offering to rescue the house from foreclosure, Madison and her children find themselves in a crossroads of destiny when the ghostly man reveals himself to be … someone from the future.
Shot on a budget with a slick sensibility, The Diabolical held me fast from the get-go, but the baffling ending left me wondering what it was all about. It tries to be poignant when it’s at its most confounding, but perhaps it may only mean what you think it means … which isn’t much. Still, for a little horror film that came out of nowhere (much like The Pact did), this picture has some merit. With a massively glutted movie market, I suspect that it will get lost in the shuffle, but if you happen across it if it’s playing at a theater near you or if you come upon the DVD or Blu-ray give it a go. I saw it days ago and I’m still thinking about it. So there’s that.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
david j. moore is a contributing writer to Fangoria, FilmFax, Lunchmeat and VideoScope Magazines. His book WORLD GONE WILD: A SURVIVOR’S GUIDE TO POST-APOCALYPTIC MOVIES was published last year.