A single mother, and her children, are awoken nightly by an intense presence. She asks her scientist boyfriend to destroy the violent spirit, that paranormal experts are too frightened to take on.
October 16, 2015
Luke Harvis, Alistair Legrand
Ali Larter as Madison
Max Rose as Jacob
Chloe Perrin as Haley
Arjun Gupta as Nikolai
Alistair Legrand has the potential to be a brilliant filmmaker. Luke Harvis, who co-writes The Diabolical with Legrand also has the potential to go very far in this business. While The Diabolical is the feature length debut from both men, it offers a degree of promise we don’t typically see from the professionally green. And, to the credit of both men, they’ve put together a very thought provoking and clever picture that frequently deviates from the haunted house clichés we’ve all come to not only know, but memorize.
You won’t get that impression if you take a quick peek at the trailer, and you probably won’t get that impression if you make a simple scan of the picture’s synopsis. Promotional and informational leaks have looked as standard as one could expect. There’s nothing that shines from the outside looking in. But when you do look in, when you peer through the window, watch the film and study it, you realize this is anything but a half-hearted tale of extreme poltergeists. The Diabolical is a whole hell of a lot more than that.
The story is astonishingly complex, factoring elements of the standard haunted house trope, time traveling and even human experiments. But is starts on a simple yet aggressive note, with Ali Larter’s character, Madison coming face to face with a mysterious and terrifying entity that looms over her like a horny prison occupant. It only gets worse though, as Madison begins to unravel the mystery surrounding her current situation.
She’s a mother of two – one a calm, promising little lady, and the other a troubled boy, just a few years older who battles serious rage issues – who is no longer with her husband and struggling to keep the bills paid and a roof over their heads. But this isn’t necessarily a roof she wants over her head, and her problems with her son, Jacob, eventually prove to be paramount to the hell she’s living. How can she keep her family together? Better yet, how can she keep her family together once she learns that her son is a very, very important piece of the terror that’s been haunting her home and family?
The subplots abound, and they’re terrific and intricate. The idea of keeping her children safe from social works becomes something to keep an eye on. The idea of human experimentation is explored. Even the concept of time travel – something, respectfully noted in the film as not yet possible – is excavated and incorporated into the conflict. And that mash-up of problems drives the viewer to an isolated location where all we can do is watch, wonder and hope for the best.
I’d give you a whole hell of a lot more to the plot, but if you read my work you know damn well I’m not into divulging too many spoilers, despite the fact that The Diabolical really begs for spoilers. Well, maybe it’s my own desire to relay the impact of the film that begs me to issue a half dozen spoilers. Shouldn’t blame that on the film, eh? Either way folks, it isn’t happening.
Ali Larter, who I’ve always respected but not necessarily admired, offers up one of – if not the greatest performances of her career. You just don’t see performers this natural in front of the camera all too often, but Larter is perfectly on point as the troubled mother. And she’s perfectly connected with her two children who both clearly require some serious nurturing.
Did I mention that with age, Larter has begun to evolve into an absolutely stunning, stunning woman? Probably best to leave that discussion for another time.
Arjun Gupta, who portrays the kind-of-new boyfriend Nikolai, who may just have a tad bit more insight into these occurrences than initially led to believe, is wonderful. The same can be said for young prospects Max Rose and Chloe Perrin, who play Madison’s children, Jacob and Haley, respectively. These two perform well beyond their years, never once feeling as though they’ve been overly coached through a scene. They deliver naturally, and more importantly, they deliver as one would expect of children. There are a few bit players (Patrick Fischler, specifically) that do a fine job to fill in the holes. Although there isn’t much hole filling required here, this is a superb ensemble.
Visually the film looks chilling and terrific. Jason Collins and Elvis Jones to a jaw-dropping job with the monstrosities we see in the film. These are chilling bastards and they’re brought to life by these two extremely impressive practitioners who have a thorough understanding of what successful visual fright is. In fact, the flick as a whole is visually appealing on a terrific level. And while we’re praising more of the behind the camera crew, let it be known that Blair Miller’s editing is seamless, which only aids the pace of the film to fly by on a carpet of silk; the movie ends long before we want it to.
The Diabolical isn’t a picture for the brainless fan who just wants blood and guts. On the contrary this one is aimed at those who cherish the chance to decipher a well-told story with many unexpected turns. You don’t just watch The Diabolical, you study it. And that study pays off, as Alistair Legrand’s debut is one of those captivating films to see release in 2015.