The Diabolical Movie Review

Written by Jeff Tolbert

Released by XLrator Media

the diabolical poster

Directed by Alistair Legrand
Written by Luke Harvis and Alistair Legrand
2015, 86 minutes, Not Rated
Blu-ray and DVD released on November 3rd, 2015

Ali Larter as Madison
Max Rose as Jacob
Chloe Perrin as Haley



It’s something of a truism among critics that mediocre products are the hardest to review. Outright garbage is easy (we all love to hate) and so is the really good stuff (we also all love to love, although maybe not as much as we love to hate).

The Diabolical has forced me to slightly revise my stance on this, though. This film is wedged somewhere between “unwatchable dreck” and “meh,” a level of sub-mediocrity that makes it even harder to review than a solid C film or a good old-fashioned stinker. It’s a D+, that impossible level of bad-but-not-terrible that infuriates me more than an absolute turd would because it suggests that the people involved knew better and still handed this thing in.

So much for a poker face.

The Diabolical is about Madison, a single mom whose husband left under vaguely mysterious and domestic abuse-y circumstances. She and her two children, Jacob and Haley, live in a house. A HOUSE. CAN YOU BELIEVE IT.


Ahem. They live in a house, and the story in fact begins in medias res, with the family apparently already having dealt with supernatural bullshit for quite some time. Unfortunately they’ve been unable to move because mom’s broke, so they’ve just been sort of—coping. Only not very well. Jacob’s already had a violent outburst in school, and he’s been getting regular visits from a lady who is some kind of psychologist and/or social worker, or possibly just some woman in a suit from off the street for all I know. Also, Madison is sleeping with Jacob’s science teacher, the dreamy Nikolai, who of course has a dark past of his own.

So yeah. Monsters appear at random, some kinda cool, slimy Silent Hill-looking crawly corpse dudes, and then one big guy who’s pretty much just a guy in a white prison jumpsuit. The family screams a bit and huddles in fear and waits for them to disappear, which they do. Eventually Nikolai gets involved and they try to figure out what these apparitions are, which they of course do, and there’s a showdown and some folks die and some other folks don’t and hurray, shit let’s get a drink. Also the damn thing randomly turns into a home invasion movie for about five minutes near the end. God.


The thing is, if you hand in a D+ film project, it’s hard to write an A+ review. Nothing here works. The film looks fairly polished (save the special effects, which I’ll get to in a moment) and has a Hollywood-like sheen. There’s also a more-or-less coherent storyline, but it’s boring and trivial.

The acting is likewise lackluster: Ali Larter’s Madison is hammy from the start, practically screaming, “Now I feel afraid! Now I am acting tough despite my fear! Now you, audience, should feel afraid too!” In general, there’s a lot of awkward, stilted exposition through dialogue: “You’ve been having this problem a long time.” “Your father was blah blah blah.” “The past is something we have to talk about out loud to make sure everyone is clear on the details!”

In a scene early on where Jacob and teacher Nikolai are discussing the velocity of eggs or some stupid crap, they finish each other’s sentences about said eggs and velocities in a way that is teeth-clenchingly unrealistic and attaches undue importance to extremely trivial “scientific” facts.

The special effects are badly dated and wholly unnecessary. There’s a lot of slow motion (including a slow-mo water-drip that is so goddamned old it makes me feel furious! Now I feel furious! You should feel furious too!). There are also terrible computer-generated ghost effects (in one scene the “prisoner” phases through the floor in a glowing portal that is painfully bad, and would still have looked bad in a mid-90s television series).

The only positives here are the practical effects used for a handful of the creepy-corpsey monster things’ appearances, but these are scarce and badly underutilized. And on this topic WHAT THE HELL ARE THESE THINGS?! By the end of the movie everything is explained except these random blood-soaked Silent Hill abominations that crawl out of washing machines and shit for no damned reason! Were they added in post just to try to wring some scares out of the audience? How do they fit in at all?

The Diabolical is not worth a watch unless it happens to be playing on basic cable some Thursday night and you have literally nothing to do and are all out of old episodes of the Friday the 13th and Tales from the Darkside TV series to watch. Even those semi-obscure short-lived shows would have had to think long and hard about accepting this script.



Movie: 1.5 Star Rating Cover

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Jeff Tolbert
Staff Reviewer
Jeff studies folklore for a living (no, really) and digs the supernatural. He loves a good haunting, and really strongly recommends that everyone stop what they're doing and go play Fatal Frame right now.
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