The problem with reviewing movies with Shyamalan-esque twist endings is that you can’t properly discuss some of the most important elements of the story without spoiling it for future viewers. That’s why I think The Diabolical’s final reveal is worth preserving, even though we’ve seen this kind of surprise before. It’s important that you know the ending will alter your view of the rest of the film, but there will be no spoilers here. Alistair Legrand presents us with a peculiar film that’s only really complete once the credits are rolling and you’re putting the pieces together in your mind.
The film stars Ali Larter (Claire Redfield from the Resident Evil movies) as Madison, a single mother struggling to keep the family together after a tragedy leaves her and her children emotionally and financially vulnerable. This is made worse by the phantasmal being that’s apparently haunting her house. She’s joined by Arjun Gupta as Nikolai, her charming love interest with both scientific and supernatural experience that tries to help her get to the bottom of what’s truly going on.
At times the conflict surround Madison and her family seems unnecessary and contrived, but the great mood and character building compensates for some cartoonish real-world antagonists and plot threads that seemingly go nowhere. This makes you feel genuinely sorry for the broken family, making the rest of the movie much more suspenseful. The science fiction angle really helps sell the haunted house concept to jaded viewers, and though there are some of the usual horror movie tropes present, almost all of them are justified within the story.
The scares aren’t as frequent as some would like, but they’re certainly memorable. However, towards the end of the film you start to see and know more of the beings coming into Madison’s world, removing a lot of the horror factor. This is unavoidable, and without it the story wouldn’t be as impacting, but it still affects the experience.
The “monsters” are also genuinely unsettling whenever they’re onscreen, with some great makeup making you believe these beings are made of flesh and blood and are not just harmless apparitions. Some of the digital effects seem somewhat rushed, but that’s just a minor issue. Overall, the presentation is fantastic, and the direction ties it all together wonderfully. It may be Legrand’s first film, but at no moment does his direction feel amateurish.
The Diabolical is the basic story of a mother ready to do whatever it takes to protect her family, even in the face of a horrifying unknown force. Though it’s weighed down by some extraneous moments and usually lacks tension when the otherworldly invaders aren’t around, this is a thoroughly enjoyable film that’s especially entertaining for repeating viewers. Some of the more attentive audience members may guess the ending at around the halfway point, but even then, there’s still enough reason to keep watching.