The Diabolical, 2015.
Directed by Alistair Legrand.
Starring Ali Larter, Arjun Gupta, Max Rose, Chloe Perrin, Kurt Carley, Merrin Dungey, Patrick Fischler and Wilmer Calderon.
Madison, a single mother of two, is 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 themselves.
Insidious… Sinister… now we can add The Diabolical to the list of horror movie titles found by flicking through a thesaurus. In this case though, the vague title actually works in favour of audiences approaching The Diabolical for the first time. The less you know, the better.
The Diabolical instantly strives to set itself apart from haunted house movies of its ilk by diving straight into the horror. From the first scene, it quickly becomes clear that the paranormal events affecting Madison’s (Ali Larter) family aren’t in her head and we waste no time enduring the inevitable questions usually posed by sceptics in these kind of movies.
It’s refreshing to kick off a horror film in this vein, although one could argue that the antagonist is revealed far too soon, robbing audiences of the tension that could have been built by even a small build-up. Watching the opening of The Diabolical feels like we accidentally walked into the cinema fifteen minutes late and while it’s admirable to hit the ground running, there still needs to be a balance of sorts.
Fortunately, The Diabolical provides a number of chilling moments that make a cinema ticket well worth your money. One particularly memorable scene involves a disfigured zombie-like figure crawling out of a washing machine (!?) in a way that’s far more terrifying than it sounds. Despite these horrors, Madison’s family appear more well adjusted to the idea of their house being haunted than you would imagine. Admittedly, the family do freak out when the apparitions appear, but would it have hurt Madison to let her son and daughter sleep in her room while the hauntings continue?
Director and co-writer Alistair Legrand borrows elements from a number of other horrors to construct his scares, including Poltergeist and Dark Skies, but The Diabolical is more original than that would suggest. Haunted house movies are often criticised for featuring idiotic protagonists who would rather face certain danger than simply up sticks and leave their home, but Legrand specifically addresses this in a way that ties in with the surprises of the finale.
The seemingly conventional first two acts of The Diabolical are flipped on their head with a final reveal that delves headfirst into the realms of science fiction. While the ending is certainly more inventive than horror movies are often given credit for, a few questions are frustratingly left unanswered. Ambiguity is all well and good, but films like this tend to work better if the audience is given some more direct answers.
Ali Larter is hugely watchable as always, continuing to excel in the genre features that she regularly chooses to star in and the family dynamic feels natural when Madison and her children are together on screen. Arjun Gupta doesn’t fare as well in comparison, but he does an acceptable job acting as Madison’s obligatory love interest.
Legrand’s script isn’t perfect by any means, but The Diabolical is a hugely enjoyable film, one that you will want to revisit again soon after you’ve seen the big reveal at the end. Unusually, The Diabolical is actually even better on second viewing, as you’re able to look out for all of the ingenious clues scattered throughout that lead up to the climax.
Ultimately, the twists and turns of Legrand’s debut feature show a lot of promise, marking the new filmmaker as a talent to watch out for in the future. Just remember though, when you go see The Diabolical after reading this review, please don’t be one of those arseholes who ruins the twist for everyone else upon leaving the cinema. There’s a special place in hell reserved for people like that, where marathons of The Wicker Man remake run until the end of time… and no one wants that.
The Diabolical will be released in UK cinemas and DigitalHD Friday October 16th with a DVD release following on Monday 19th October.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★