Review: The Diabolical

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.

One of only a couple of supernatural ventures at this year’s Frightfest was the directorial debut of music video maker Alistair Legrand was certainly scary at times but didn’t hold together too well towards the end. Borrowing from classics like Poltergeist this takes the well-known ‘family lives in a house that gets possessed by a presence’ sub-genre but delivers it with a bit of a twist.

Single mother Madison (Ali Larter) and her two young children are being disturbed regularly by an evil ghost-like creature. Having put up with it for so long Madison finally enlists the help of her boyfriend Nikolai (Arjun Gupta). Together they try to find a way of destroying the spirit once and for all but what they end up discovering is much deeper that goes back further into the past than any of them could have imagined…

This film does have quite a good story at the centre of it and it does get jumpy at times but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before and it just feels all too forgettable. Ali Larter gives a strong performance as a single mother trying to protect her children from whatever terror comes her way. It’s good to see her make a return to the genre for the first time since Final Destination and Final Destination 2 all those years ago! There is a chilling atmosphere in the air during this film but is somewhat overtaken by shabby effects and another rushed ending that doesn’t really add up at all. When you can’t really remember any defining moments of a film minutes after you saw it, it doesn’t bode well.

Caught at a screening at this years Film4 FrightFest, The Diabolical feels somewhat like its covering familiar territory, one specific house, young family, ghostly apparitions and objects moving. It would be very easy early on in the movie to make comparisons to Poltergeist (but don’t worry, its WAY better than the recent remake of which we don’t speak). For a modern ghost story the creatures and their appearances are quite scary. They are also a change from the usual ‘black eye socket open mouth jump scare scream at the camera’ appearance that has dogged some ghost horrors of late.

Ali Larter stars as a single mother trying to raise 2 children after the death of their farther. The stark worn out house, too big for the family is coupled with the sudden apparitions of ghostly beings, and the arrival of a strange realtor trying to buy up the house. I particularly liked the way objects would react before the ghosts appeared, and the work that had gone into the different appearances on-screen showed as once or twice I found myself leaving my seat (with Mark I lost count). Arjun Gupta and Patrick Fischler are superb co-stars and their characters feel well written with a full personality, something that feels like it’s often overlooked in horror.

Its worth noting that The Diabolical is the writing and feature directorial debut of Alistar Legrand – a music video director. While not perfect – for the first two-thirds it certainly is a step from other films made by music to film directors. As you would expect from a music video director the film looks brilliant with a great attention to detail in the framing and reveals of each ‘sighting’.

The Diabolical for the most part wasn’t that badly written and it’s certainly not badly acted. The story however started to fall apart towards the end. I do feel the ending (while I saw it coming & didn’t like it) was a refreshing change from the usual illogical faire and unlike some films leaves an interesting philosophical door open for Diabolical 2 to be made easily. Even if it was a damp squib compared to the setup that preceded it.

The Diabolical is out on DVD on 19th October 2015.




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