Saturday 29 August 2015

The Diabolical (US 2015: Dir Alistair Legrand)

You've got to be pretty confident when giving your movie a title like The Diabolical that it's not the word that's going to be used to describe it. In first time director Alistair Legrand's case I'm afraid it's just one of a lexicon of similar adjectives that will be trotted out to sum up this terrible genre mash up 'fright' flick.

Ali (Heroes (2006-10)) Larter plays Madison, a single mum struggling to make ends meet after separating from her violent husband, and being threatened with eviction by the company to whom her house is mortgaged. Her woes are added to by a series of threatening apparitions that pop up (and disappear) with almost nightly regularity. Baffled and frightened, Madison enlists the help of local scientist Nikolai, with whom she's been having a thing. After Nikolai witnesses the haunting he rigs up the house to film the goings on, which leads to Madison understanding that the apparitions are linked to the company wishing to repossess the house.

The fact that The Diabolical is being advertised as a blend of genres says a lot about the formulaic nature of many of today's horror films, and Legrand should be at least credited with trying something different. But the unevenness of tone and its shift from very un-scary spook movie to 'what the...did that just happen?' sci fi about two thirds of the way through is frankly embarrassing. I can't give too much away, but think The Terminator (1984), Millennium (1989) or The Frighteners (1996) and you're on the right track. Ali Larter is probably the best thing in this, eliciting genuine sympathy as a woman battling against bankruptcy while living in a haunted house, and convincingly portraying the protective mother role with the equally effective Chloe Perrin and Thomas Kuc as her young daughter and son. The rest of the cast are merely supporting players in a story which would probably have been better realised as an episode of The X Files (1993-2002). The audience response at the end of the showing I attended, running for the exits rather than sitting through a post movie Q&A with the inexperienced and obviously deluded director, says a lot.

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