You only need to watch one haunted house movie to know that finding someone who believes something paranormal is actually happening is a major challenge. In Alistair Legrand’s The Diabolical, the family is far past the initial panic of needing someone to come save them. They’ve given up on outside help. No one is coming. The only thing left to do is find a way to survive the invasions that come over and over and over again.
Ali Larter plays Madison, a single mother whose house and children have been terrorized by a series of paranormal apparitions. As she tries to find a way to get her family out of the house, it becomes apparent that her kids aren’t going to be able to leave. After her scientist boyfriend (Arjun Gupta) sees one of the invaders, he attempts to find a way to stop whatever it is that’s ruining their lives.
The film doesn’t take any time getting into the thick of things. In terms of the paranormal scares, the first minute is full throttle and Legrand pushes the pedal through the floor from there. It’s always nice when a horror film skips the traditional beats of making the audience think that there’s actually nothing wrong or that the world is some ideal place. Often, all those things do is pad the run time. For The Diabolical, that particular fat is trimmed and the scares are revving from the start.
In terms of the general idea of the movie, I couldn’t ask for much more from a horror flick. It’s a simple enough concept, but as the story goes on, it’s clear that the simplistic base is just the strong foundation for the complexities that can be found further into the film. As with most horror movies, I can’t say much more for fear of some major spoilers, but just know there are some really cool ideas present here.
Still, for such an interesting of a concept and as well as most of it’s executed, I would’ve loved an extra fifteen minutes to really explore the things that aren’t totally fleshed out. Granted, it’s never good when every detail is explained ad nauseam, but there’s a happy balance that could be struck, and The Diabolical falls too far onto the ambiguous side of the spectrum. There are too many potential roads presented that the story just doesn’t have time to go down. There are also too many unanswered questions for it to feel fully satisfying. But, the fact that I care enough to wish I had more of an explanation for the things shown in the movie proves that the filmmakers were definitely onto something promising here.
Almost all of the performances are top notch, but the two that stand out specifically are Max Rose and Chloe Perrin. Kids are used ineffectively in plenty of horror movies, and for a first time director, it seems like that should be something to be wary of. Fortunately for Legrand, that’s not the case here. Both of the lead child actors are enjoyable to watch throughout, and very well may have out-performed their adult counterparts.
Ultimately, The Diabolical has enough scares to to be worthwhile as a genre flick and enough brains to provide a story worth watching. A few plot gaps and unanswered questions keep it from being a great horror movie, but it’s still a very enjoyable one.
Scary and smart, The Diabolical is well worth a watch, despite leaving some questions unanswered.