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'The Diabolical' Toronto After Dark Capsule Review

October 20, 2015Ben MK

Sometimes the most bizarre occurrences — even the ones that appear supernatural in origin — can have perfectly logical explanations. But sometimes, those explanations can be even weirder than the occurrences themselves. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it's the latter statement that best describes The Diabolical, the debut feature from writer/director Alistair Legrand, which stars Heroes' Ali Larter as a single mother haunted by ghoulish visions.

Larter plays Madison, a woman with more than her fair share of problems. Not only has her husband died, leaving her to take care of their two young children (Max Rose and Chloe Perrin) alone, but she's also on the verge of declaring bankruptcy, and her son Jacob (Rose) has been getting in trouble for his violent outbursts at school. Oh, and there's also the matter of the oftentimes bloody and skinless apparitions that keep on terrorizing her and her family, emerging day and night from places like her daughter's bedroom closet, the kitchen, and even the dryer. Luckily, she also has a new boyfriend, a scientist named Nikolai (Arjun Gupta), and together they set out to vanquish the creepy apparitions.

As diabolically contrived and conventional as that set-up sounds, The Diabolical actually tries to be anything but. In fact, any resemblance the movie might bear to your typical haunted house thriller is merely Legrand playing with audience expectations. When the film does reveal its true colors, however, the result is something of a mixed bag. Trading horror tropes for sci-fi trappings, The Diabolical's twisty third-act revelation and sudden gear-shifting will either come as a disappointment for viewers hoping for a gruesome and gory fright-fest, or a delight for those with a passion for genre mash-ups. Either way, it's pretty obvious that the film's title doesn't really describe the story at all, but rather the filmmakers' mischievous intentions.

The Diabolical received its Canadian premiere at Toronto After Dark 2015, and was preceded by director Michael Bryan's short film, Sleep Monster. For these and more titles from this year's festival, visit torontoafterdark.com.

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