Single mother Madison lives with her two small children in their presence-plagued home. When money becomes severely tight and her son’s violent behavior erupts once again, the family of three are hesitant to leave their home, but once one of the apparitions transmit something to the children that won’t allow them to leave the house without becoming severely ill, the family is forced to remain stuck in their abode cell. Madison’s scientific boyfriend Nikolai looks to help the weary family fight this evil that won’t let them leave, but when Madison digs further into the apparitions, she discovers that their is more to their sudden and random appearances and that the once trusted Nikolai might somehow be maliciously involved.
“The Diabolical” is an interesting horror film from first time feature film writer-director Alistair Legrand. Legrand, whose credits mainly include music videos, opens the story up to a withering family on the verge of destruction with the father-husband having already left due to a lingering love-hate relationship between him and Madison and they’re well aware of the presences, some more grotesque than others, that come and go with a sudden spark of electricity. No set up laid out to introduce the initial contact between apparition and family; instead, the characters, though still unsettled by each frightful visit, continue to live life amongst the paranormal. Not even paranormal scientists have the fortitude to challenge the eidolons, which pokes fun at films like “The Conjuring.”
I say that “The Diabolical” is an interesting film because the apparitions have complexities that are not made clear until near the end, but hints are strewn through to give that something isn’t exactly clear sensation. However, Legrand doesn’t quite piece together the story to deliver a packed full package to feel the full effect. The story feels undercooked and when the finale is revealed, many of the previous events in the film don’t quite add up to conclude nicely the twist ending. The apparitions have qualities that are never explained and don’t contribute to their reason for being. Another frustrating underdevelopment is with Madison, the family, and their relationship with Nikolai. Were not quite sure if Madison’s husband left because of Madison, a little exposition states that’s the case, or if their son Jacob did something to harm him fatally. The father just doesn’t exist and his presence felt neglected, ignored, and forgotten to the point where there was really no need to have the off-screen existence. Nikolai fills in that father shoe, but his relationship with Madison seems very casual as if Madison didn’t just come off a serious relationship and was dating for the first time.
Madison is not the kind of typical role for lead actress Ali Larter. The Resident Evil and Final Destination star has been an archetype of strong female characters in most of horror movie credits and while Madison is a strong female lead, envisioning Larter as a mother of two children sits unimaginably. Besides, Legrand doesn’t make the beautiful and unflinching Larter seem like a worn and torn down person whose husband has is gone, bills are piling up to the ceiling, and harmful apparitions are popping up all over the house. Legrand also doesn’t necessarily pit the evil apparitions against Madison until near the tail end, painting the apparitions almost as if their part of the family’s imagination in the beginning. The sense that the family is completely cool with these ghost-like-gruesome and terrifying presences does nothing to motivate the family, especially Madison, to move out form the house.
The special effects department delivers top notch phantasms even if some of the apparitions move around the house like Bill Cosby in “Ghost Dad” or look like creatures from the “Silent Hill” films. Nothing from the practical or the computer generated effects appeared shoddy. I’m pleasantly appeased by the work special effects artist Jason Collins and his colleagues have conjured up. However, the story doesn’t reflect the effects as the story loses steam abruptly for a knockout ending; the ending felt, as it looked, rushed. Tying up the mystery of the apparitions into a brief, underdeveloped scene. Then to top off the ending, leave an open ending scene that doesn’t quite work to solidify an understanding.
“The Diabolical” is truly diabolical as Alistair Legrand’s horror film with a Sci-Fi flair teases a good and fascinating story, yet only manages to founder with an over saturated underdevelopment. I really wanted to like this movie, especially since I’m fond of Ali Larter and her work, but trying see past the Alistair Legrand’s flaws is like throwing a no hitter and still walking half the batters that come to the plate – its not a perfect game. In any case, I would still recommend “The Diabolical” from the UK distributor High Flier Films for a unique story, eye glazing CGI, and, of course, the gorgeous Ali Larter!