Friday, February 19, 2016

Film Review: The Diabolical (2015)

The Diabolical (Review)
United States/2015
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"It's not especially frightening or mind-blowing, but it is moderately entertaining and interesting."

Madison (Ali Larter), a single mother, tries to live peacefully with her two children, Jacob and Haley. Her family, however, is tormented by an inexplicable force within their house...

The Diabolical follows Madison and her children, as well as Madison's boyfriend, Nikolai (Arjun Gupta). The first two acts of the film generally play out like a family drama. Madison is a single mother, Jacob is an intelligent child with behavioral issues stemming from his anger issues, and Haley is a jolly little girl; Madison is also dating Nikolai, who is Jacob's teacher. Oh, and the family are experiencing strange events in their home in the form of apparitions, often bloody, occasionally appearing out of nowhere. With that said, not much really happens in the first two acts. It's interesting, sure, but it's not all that engaging. The third act gives us a solid revelation, though — it's different from the same old cliches. It definitely picks up the pace and unravels a decent mystery. I wasn't a big fan of the actual ending, but it wasn't bad.

The Diabolical is a decent film. It's a mixture of science-fiction and horror — the former appearing more during the final act and the latter appearing sparsely throughout. I was interested throughout the film, but I wouldn't say I was fully engaged. Like I said, the first two acts feel uneventful, which causes the pacing to feel very slow. It often feels like it's crawling towards the end, not even walking to it. It's not bad per se, but it just doesn't grab you. When it's not at least somewhat interesting, it just feels boring. There are some great visuals, though. The plot is also very interesting, too, especially towards the end. Although it appears like just-another-haunted-house movie on the surface, it does have some personality. It's one of those films that's caught in the middle – it's not the best and it's not the worst.

The acting was good, though. Ali Larter delivers a good performance as the lead and Arjun Gupta offered a decent supporting role. The child cast was good, too. None of the roles were especially demanding, but the cast did well. I can't fault them for that. The film was shot well, too. I don't remember much of the music, so there probably wasn't any or it simply blended with the background – at least it wasn't obnoxious. The film is written by Alistair Legrand and Luke Harvis; Legrand also directs. The film's is well directed, crafting a competent narrative from beginning to end. The writing is also good, too, focusing on character and forming a strong structure. However, the direction and writing play it safe for far too long. This causes the film to feel hollow and uneventful, really moving without haste. And, despite a good revelation, the lack of risk in the writing and direction make it feel more like any other haunted house film.

Overall, The Diabolical is a decent film. It's not especially frightening or mind-blowing, but it is moderately entertaining and interesting. The first two acts are slow, but there are some interesting tidbits of information and some great visuals sprinkled throughout. Although I did not love the ending, the final act offers some much needed energy to the film. It's not the best, it's not the worst – it's somewhere in the middle and it's at least worth a rental.

Score: 5/10 
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood, a brief sex scene.

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