Friday, April 22, 2016

THE DIABOLICAL (2015) [Joe's Review]

            . . . The horror equivalent of thinking you have to go to work on a Saturday morning and then realizing you don't . . .

When a mother's house is haunted by a bleeding booger monster, she turns to improvised weapons to defend her family and her carpets.

My friend Paul watched The Diabolical and it made such a strong impression on him that he completely forgot what he saw, and he actually had to watch it twice to remember what the hell happened.

It's that strong a movie, folks.

Well, I watched it and I remembered what happened. But my review left such a strong impression on the word document that it corrupted it. Wordpad forgot what I wrote, so now I'm rewriting it - very quickly. Between Paul and I, we've watched and written about The Diabolical three times.

That is absolutely the most diabolical fact about The Diabolical.

But let's not waste time or words.

The Diabolical is a tepid horror/sci-fi film about a bleeding booger monster that harasses a family until they eventually fight it off and kind of win. There's an M. Night Shyamalan plot twist at the end, but the plot is so incoherent that the twist seems like a random detail, rather than a major development that recasts your perception of the entire movie.

However, there is one thing I liked about The Diabolical, and that was how scary it wasn't. In most scary movies there's some sort of build up, and then something terrible happens. In The Diabolical those same build ups occur without any consequences! It's the horror equivalent of thinking you have to go to work on a Saturday morning and then realizing you don't.

Exhibit A:

The family son, Jacob, goes downstairs for an early morning snack. Despite several cues that the bloody booger monster is coming, Jacob seems unconcerned.

When he hears the booger monster wheezing and crawling across the dining room floor, he goes to investigate.

The camera focuses on Jacob's bare feet. This communicates to the audience: "Jacob has bare feet!"

Then, Jacob accidentally knocks a dish onto the floor. At this point, you know he's going to wind up stepping on the pieces.

The booger monster crawls around the corner and is like "RRARRRR *wheeeeze*"

And sure enough, Jacob freaking steps on the broken dish!

In a scene with a bleeding ghoul from beyond, the the dish. The booger monster disappears, and Jacob cleans his foot with rubbing alcohol, which is also scarier than the booger monster.

These are the kinds of stakes you can expect in The Diabolical. But hey, if you're a dish, this scene probably horrified you!

Exhibit B:

Neighborhood kids show up to egg the house, wearing coordinated skeleton masks in order to conceal their identities! And what do they do as soon as they start throwing the eggs? They take their masks off. Of course!

The leader kid ups the ante by threatening to throw a stone through the window, which is pretty high stakes for The Diabolical. First a broken dish, now a broken window? What if Jacob steps on the broken glass with the same foot that was injured by the broken dish? The mind reels.

But, the bleeding booger monster lurks. You can tell by the camera perspective that it's watching the kids from the window. What might it do to them?

It's going to...


I guess the booger monster felt bad about the plate and assumed the family would blame him for the window. So he was like "Oh no you don't!"

To recap: it seemed like a window might get broken, but then it wasn't. Phew! That's easy like Sunday morning!

But not scary. In fact, the bloody booger monster actually gets progressively less scary as the film goes on.

Exhibit C:

In the very first scene it's like an oozing, bleeding booger man. Scary! But also slow, and clearly in pain.

A few minutes later it's kind of a skinless weird thing. I bet mom's glad she didn't have a load of laundry in there, because that would have been ironic!

Then it's Freddy Kruger

Then it's a dude without a mouth

And in its final incarnation it's a dude WITH a mouth

Which is really just a dude. Well, they beat him with a baseball bat and stick him with a fireplace poker, and then there's a big plot twist. Whatever. The interesting thing is that The Diabolical is one of the only movies I've ever seen where the monster gradually morphs into a man. This is completely unexplained, by the way.

So while The Diabolical is bad, it's bad in some really unique ways. It's not the worst movie I've seen, not even this month, but there are some mistakes that are truly its own.

Or rather, they're the mistakes of Alistair Legrand and Luke Harvis, two relatively inexperienced horror screenplay writers who publicly acknowledge that what they write is bad, as in this excerpt from an interview with

LH: There’s a point in every screenplay where you question yourself and wonder if you’re writing the worst thing ever written.

AL: We ask each other that question all the time. We think what we’ve written is terrible, but we’re also stubborn and hate to quit things, so we finish most of the screenplays that we start.

LH: I almost think that asking yourself, “Is this the worst thing ever written?” is necessary because it makes you take a hard look at what you’re writing and think critically about it. It’s important to have that drive and to answer that question.

AL: To add to that, movie titles are the worst things to come up with. The worst. All of our works start as “Untitled” and stay that way until the last minute. Movie titles are definitely our hurdle.

There's some good stuff to make fun of here. For example, movie titles are definitely A hurdle for this duo. But movie titles aren't their only hurdle. Shoot, these guys practically own a hurdle store with The Diabolical. But the point isn't to trash these guys. There's something inspiring here, which is summed up in this quote from Alistair Legrand:

Keep writing. Don’t be a perfectionist. Don’t think that the first screenplay you write is going to be absolutely perfect. You need to write ten horrible screenplays. Enjoy how bad they are. With every word, you’re learning and getting feedback from friends. Enjoy that process. Just try to make something good.

For what it's worth, Alistair, we enjoy how bad your movies are.

Joe's questions for Paul:

1. Do you assume that the booger monsters were sent in the order that they appeared?

PH:  This is a time travel question!  If you had a time travel machine, went back in time and ate someone's laundry, the logical next move is to go back before you ate the laundry, pick out the laundry that you find most delicious and throw some raspberry jelly on it.  That way you can give the past you a future treat!

2. Why was the evil corporation sending the booger monster? Was it part of the evil prank division's annual smart goals?

PH:  In the future, Joe, corporations just do shit for the hell of it.  Have a booger monster?  Send it back in time.  When you're an evil corporation in a half-baked horror movie, it's what you do!

3. Was the mom evil at the end? And what was her evil purpose?

PH:  I guess she does abandon her kid after she discovers that by abandoning him she would turn him into a psycho killer.  So I guess she does it all for the booger, the booger, so you can take that cookie!

4. Would their house smell like booger monster all the time? How do you explain that to guests?

PH:  That kind of advice is best found on the internet.  Googling: "what to do about monsters in your house" turns up the following top-rated answer:

Any gap in your house is a potential way for monsters to get inside. Most monsters can only jump one block high, but spiders can climb vertical surfaces, making gaps in walls unsafe at any height. If you want to have windows so you can determine when it is daylight again, use glass, glass panes or iron bars instead of leaving that space empty. Similarly, ensure your roof has no holes in it, as monsters may fall onto it from a hill or cliff above it and then get inside your house, or spiders may climb the walls and then enter through the hole in the roof.

I hadn't even thought about the spiders!  So useful--if you want to know when it's daylight use glass in your windows!

5. What were the little girl and the booger monster talking about?

PH:  Presumably about how to find better agents.

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