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    The Diabolical (2015): Movie Review

    "A hodgepodge of ghost story, time travel and family drama.” 

    An unknown malevolent force is haunting a mother and her two children in The Diabolical. Unfortunately, director Alistair Legrand’s debut feature is a convoluted and muddled mixed-up of horror tropes, sci-fi elements and a family drama.

    Madison (Ali Larter) single-handedly runs her household. Other than financial burdens, Madison is also concerned with her two children who claim to have seen apparitions in the house which also vanish without harming them. Big brother Jacob (Max Rose) is a smart kid but is having problems controlling his temper that he goes into a fight with another kid who bullies his baby sister (Chloe Perrin). The kids have gotten used to the vision, thinking that the ghost is of their departed father.

    As Madison copes with the concerns of a social worker (Merrin Dungey) who see her children and resists the tempting offers of a real estate agent (Patrick Fischler), the spectre becomes more physical in form and throws random violent acts. After bringing in priests and psychics who all fail to give plausible explanations, she enlists the help of her boyfriend and Jacob’s science teacher Nikolai (Arjun Gupta). Madison also does her research and is stunned to discover the phenomenon’s connection to top-secret teleportation experiments. 

    The Diabolical opens quite promisingly with a strong visual sense of the face of terror. It’s an ugly monster indeed, complete with its seemingly decomposing skin and gouged eyes. However, the movie is disappointingly slow as the first half is filled with jump-scare appearances of the unknown entity but with no significant progress in the narrative. We know there are problems in the family and this monster is an additional baggage. The film keeps reiterating this point and it soon becomes tiring, especially when you are clueless as to where things are headed to. Finally, a mysterious sales agent appears with irresistible offers of buying the house. When Madison does her investigation, she coincidentally links the happening with her Google search find. At this point, the film evolves into a sci-fi thriller involving time travel and uncomfortably, it races against time and rushes to a confounding ending.

    Admirably but unfortunately, the movie is a futile attempt to remake and remix tropes from different subgenres. It re-creates teleportation elements as the bridge connecting the future’s ghost to the present. Yet, the hybrid is not a remarkable product as solved mysteries and twists only lead to more confusing questions. In the end, the movie looks like a hodgepodge of creepy visuals, jumpy score, far-fetched ideas and illogical subplots that never efficiently gel.

    Nonetheless, the film has a heart-warming subtext as a psychological drama. The parent-child theme is strong and in essence, the family of three are prisoners of their own home. First, Madison is in the dilemma that her son will inherit his father’s violent and angry nature. Secondly, the mortgage in their house has piled up already, trapping them in a financial crisis. Plus, there is this apparition from the future which intends to keep them within the corners of the house. It is a complex domestic setup which the movie, sadly, is not able to give a satisfying denouement. 

    The Diabolical has a lot of problems except for its paranormal effects. It has too much on its plate which after feeding little by little to the audience, rushes to throw them all away. The performances range from mediocre to passable. Lastly, the film just fails to generate genuine terror and leave memorable marks. 

    Production company: Campfire
    Cast: Ali Larter, Max Rose, Chloe Perrin, Merrin Dungey, Patrick Fischler, Arjun Gupta, Joe Egender, Wilmer Calderon 
    Director: Alistair Legrand 
    Screenwriters: Alistair Legrand, Luke Harvis 
    Producers: Ross M. Dinerstein 
    Executive producers: Jamie Carmichael, Joel Henry, Kevin Iwashima, Andrew Schwarz 
    Director of photography: John Frost 
    Production designer: Mona Nahm 
    Costume designer: Michelle Thompson 
    Editor: Blair Miller 
    Music: Ian Hultquist


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