Synopsis: When a single mother and her two young children are tormented by an increasingly strange and intense presence in their quiet suburban home, she turns to her scientist boyfriend to take on the violent forces that paranormal experts are too frightened to face.
Release Date: October 16, 2015 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Horror, Sci-Fi
It’s the time of year when haunted house movies are a dime a dozen. Hell, this very week sees the release of the cool and creepy The Inhabitants. But something about The Diabolical, the new sci-fi/horror film from music video director/first-time feature filmmaker Alistair Legrand, is different. It might not even technically be a haunted house movie. But it sure plays out like one.
The Diabolical stars Ali Larter (Final Destination) as a single mother named Madison who has typical family struggles: paying bills on time, keeping food on the table, making sure that her kids don’t get into trouble at school. Unfortunately, Madison has another, less typical problem; there’s a strange being that lives in her house and torments her and her children, Jacob (Secret Summer‘s Max Rose) and Haley (Chloe Perrin from “Reckless”). She enlists the help of her boyfriend, Nikolai (Arjun Gupta from “Nurse Jackie”), who just happens to be a paranormal investigator and Jacob’s schoolteacher, to help figure out who – or what – the entity is before it does any real harm to her or her family.
There are a lot of surprises in The Diabolical. The screenplay was written by Alistair Legrand himself along with writing partner Luke Harvis (another first-timer), and it’s a twisting, turning tale of supernatural terror and otherworldly experiences. At the root of the film is the mysterious intruder in the house, a being identified in the credits only as The Prisoner and played by creature performer Kurt Carley (who has been a werewolf in Underworld, a sleestak in Land of the Lost, and Godzilla himself in Roland Emmerich’s disastrous 1998 flop). The Prisoner is an enigma, because the audience is never really sure if he’s a ghost, an alien, or something else altogether. Rest assured, the mystery is solved by the end, and the solution is a satisfyingly crafty and clever way to end the film.
For her part, Ali Larter’s Madison is a sympathetic protagonist. Aside from the obvious Prisoner, stress and strife comes at Madison from all directions: her son’s bullies who constantly get him into trouble, the mysterious land developer who will stop at nothing to get her house, even her boyfriend Nick becomes the subject of mistrust and suspicion at one point in the film. There’s a feeling that the entire world is against Madison and her family, and that makes the audience root harder for her.
The Diabolical starts out as one kind of movie and ends up another, and that’s perfectly fine. More than fine, actually; it’s great. It’s better than one more creaky-floorboard, slamming-door ghost movie that ends with a stereotypical exorcism scene. Track down The Diabolical and see it.
The soundtrack for The Diabolical was composed by Ian Hultquist (Ivory Tower, Animals), and it’s a fascinating work of music. It’s not exactly atonal or noisy, but it straddles the line between musical score and sound design, sounding like a ringing or buzzing in the ears of the characters, yet pitched and tune-like. The lion’s share of the score is electronic, and it sounds as if Hultquist broke out his vintage synthesizers, using the classic preset effects like whale songs, car horns, or helicopter rotors – musical sounding noise effects. It’s all very creative, crafty, and well done – the abrasive musicality of Hultquist’s score fits The Diabolical‘s edge-of-your-seat action/horror visuals.
There’s a lot to be afraid of in The Diabolical. Most of the scares are, of course, supplied by the Prisoner, as he exists on more than one plane and pops in and out of the movie at seemingly random and horrifying times. But there are more subtle scares in the film as well; both Jacob and Haley can be classified as “creepy kids” in their own ways. Jacob is an unstable child, loyal to his family but liable to snap at any given moment, something like the psycho kid Tommy from The Butterfly Effect. Haley, on the other hand, is a cuter type of creepy, but still frightening, as she seems to be on friendly terms with the mysterious Prisoner and ends up with some eerie moments that are reminiscent of Carol Anne from the original Poltergeist (think “they’re heeee-eere”). Between the monstrous Prisoner, the disturbingly violent Jacob, and the suspiciously smiling Haley, there’s some real terror onscreen in The Diabolical.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Alistair Legrand
- Producer(s): Ross M. Dinerstein
- Screenwriter(s): Luke HarvisAlistair Legrand
- Cast: Ali Larter (Madison)Arjin Gupta (Nikolai)Max Rose (Jacob) Chloe Perrin (Haley)Merrin Dungey (Mrs. Wallace)Kurt Carley (The Prisoner)Patrick Fischler (Austin)Wilmer Calderon (Miguel)Thomas Wright (Curtis)Thomas Kuc (Danny)Joe Egender (Carl)Trey Holland (Nestor)
- Editor(s): Blair Miller
- Cinematographer: John Frost
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer: Michelle Thompson
- Casting Director(s): Lindsey Hayes Kroeger
- Music Score: Ian Hultquist
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA