Diabolique (1955)

Header image
An abused, neglected wife and her husband’s jaded mistress plot the perfect murder.



The biggest pat on the back for this film goes to the writers. The way the characters are developed turns the screw of intensity until finally the ending is revealed. If you haven’t seen it, let me say it is not like other endings, it is a magnificent one, set apart.

Many writers were involved in starting and completing this film. After the final scenes’ power, you will likely agree with me it shows! The director is Henri-Georges Clouzot. He is known for other intensely dark yet compelling thrillers like this one. The films he has done as listed in his IMDB bio are: “Le Corbeau and “The Wages of Fear.” I admit to not seeing these films, but I want to after seeing “Les Diabolique.” He is compared in the bio to Hitchcock except with films that “do not have as much light relief.”

Le Corbeau got Georges in a lot of trouble. The French government thought he presented France in a dark and bad light so he was banned from making films for several years. Though there are many other stories about this director, I feel that one is the most telling about his honesty and integrity as a filmmaker. Thank goodness I don’t live in a censored state like he did. I don’t think I would be able to stand for it. Inevitably, this made him tough and thoughtful about his craft.

The brutal scene pictured here is a good followup to the director who crafted this amazing film. By today’s standards, it’s tame but for 1955 it was more brutal & mysterious than Hitchcock and that’s why people still love it to this day.

This film takes place in a French boys’ school where most the characters work. The Headmaster has been cheating on his wife for years and his mistress as well as the wife, work at the school. This is where the story is told and the exquisite tension begins.

You see a far different school than ours in America today. The teachers are smoking in the presence of the students, the kids food fight regularly, although it is smart how they just don’t feed them for the malfeasance. It seems to be ameliorated the next day. Funny what a schoolmaster hunger can be right? The headmaster is a womanizer, a rapist (in theory), and an all around unlikable guy. We start to see right away he needs to be killed, or at least we hope. As the two women drive together, they discuss a plan to get rid of this guy once and for all. For all intents and purposes, it seems like a perfect plan for murder.

I want to make a comment about the practical effects. Obviously back then it was all they had to work with but they are so much fun to watch. I recently watched “Eyes Without a Face,” another classic horror, and the car scenes were so funny to me. It looks so fake and yet they probably thought it was so real for the time. The scenes in these cars are even more archaic and also more funny to me. It really shows how far we’ve come with effects. Now back to the idea of this plot, with no spoilers.

The film is black and white of course and filmed almost entirely at the house which is the school for boys. The swimming pool that is part of their plan is at the school. They do a great job distracting the viewer with activities of the children. We find that the husband/headmaster has a lot to lose if his wife divorces him. He hits her and treats her miserably. As the viewer it’s hard to not imagine killing him, he’s that bad. BUT as we all know in the civilized world, it’s never appropriate to kill someone. We watch these two women make their plans, as he equally humiliates the mistress though not as badly, and their path takes them to another location: a holiday hotel.

The little couple that manage the hotel are side-splittingly funny. They are innocents and it’s funny how people intending to kill can look at innocents with such jealousy. Once the deed is done, there’ll be no going back.

I’ll leave my summary there for you. I haven’t given anything away except the fact that there is a great ending. I would challenge you to be brave and watch this old film. It’s better than so many modern murder mysteries.  If you’ve seen it, do leave some thoughts in the comments. I enjoy discussing this and other murder mysteries in this genre. Thos eare my thoughts, what did you think of this film?

 

Insidious

This is one of my favorite horror films of all time. It still gives me the chills when I watch it and I have seen it numerous times. Director James Wan uses clever practical effects and a very minimum number of CGI effects to make this film look and feel like a house of horrors you pay a dollar to see at a spooky off-the-path carnival. It’s amazing and I recommend it to all people interested in horror. Oh, and it’s all that AND guess what it’s rated? Only PG-13. Goes to show you a film doesn’t have to be super gnarly to scare the bajeezus out of you. Let’s hear the trailer then look at the plot to see if you agree with me about what makes this horror film work.

Insidious (2010)
PG-13 | 1h 43min | Horror, Mystery, Thriller | 1 April 2011 (USA)
Insidious Poster
Trailer
0:31 | Trailer
5 VIDEOS | 25 IMAGES
Watch Now

From $2.99 (SD) on Prime Video
A family looks to prevent evil spirits from trapping their comatose child in a realm called The Further.
Director: James Wan
Writer: Leigh Whannell
Stars: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Ty Simpkins

Director James Wan Probably needs no introduction to my audience, however if you don’t know much about him, let me read his BIO for you, because I think in this case, the director makes the film work (among other things):

James Wan (born 26 February 1977) is an Australian film producer, screenwriter and film director of Malaysian Chinese descent. He is widely known for directing the horror film Saw (2004) and creating Billy the puppet. Wan has also directed Dead Silence (2007), Death Sentence (2007), Insidious (2010), The Conjuring (2013) and Furious 7 (2015).

Before his success in the mainstream film industry, he made his first feature-length film, Stygian, with Shannon Young, which won “Best Guerrilla Film” at the Melbourne Underground Film Festival (MUFF) in 2000.

Prior to 2003, Wan and Leigh Whannell had begun writing a script based for a horror film, citing inspiration from their dreams and fears. Upon completing the script, Leigh and James had wanted to select an excerpt from their script, later to be known as Saw (2004), and film it to pitch their film to studios. With the help of Charlie Clouser, who had composed the score for the film, and a few stand-in actors, Leigh and James shot the film with relatively no budget. Leigh had decided to star in the film as well.

After the release of the full-length Saw (2004), the film was met with overwhelming success in the box office both domestically and internationally. The film ended up grossing 55 million dollars in America, and 48 million dollars in other countries, totaling over $103 million worldwide. This was over 100 million dollars profit, over 80 times the production budget. This green-lit the sequel Saw II (2005), and later the rest of the Saw franchise based on the yearly success of the previous installment. Since its inception, Saw (2004) has become the highest grossing horror franchise of all time worldwide in unadjusted dollars. In the United States only, Saw (2004) is the second highest grossing horror franchise, behind only the Friday the 13th (1980) films by a margin of $10 million.

– IMDb Mini Biography By: Movie Guy

Now let me walk you through the most terrifying house and show you the way Insidious scares the hell out of people! It’s done simply through its story and well made horror. Married couple Josh and Renai Lambert, their children Dalton, Foster, and infant daughter Cali have recently moved into a new home. One night, Dalton is drawn to the attic when he hears creaking noises and sees the door open by itself. He falls from a ladder while investigating and sees a figure in the shadows. Hearing his terrified screams, Renai and Josh rush to his aid. The next day, Dalton falls into an inexplicable coma. The Lambert family is what the beginning is all about. There are no jump scares, just some eerie wandering around. In fact, the movie only has a few scant jump scares and even those are more like letting your eyes adjust to the light and seeing something that startles you. They aren’t overly ambitious and in a way I think of them as … respectful? Yeah, it’s like Wan is respecting the viewer. In this early segment, we do see Renai walking into an attic, exploring dark areas of the house. It’s certainly creepy. I take issue with Josh at one point, he doesn’t take very good care of his wife. She has her hands full with the kids and he is always running out the door, working late, etc. Maybe he makes up for it later? Yeah, he does.

After three months of treatment without result, Renai and Josh are allowed to take Dalton home. Soon after, paranormal activity begins to occur; Renai begins hearing voices over the baby monitor when no one is in Cali’s room. Foster says that Dalton sleepwalks at night, Renai sees a frightening figure of a man in Cali’s room, who vanishes when Josh comes and the burglar alarm is repeatedly triggered for no reason. After Renai finds a bloody hand print on Dalton’s bed, she questions Josh about the house, but he ignores her. That night, Renai is attacked by the figure from Cali’s room, and the Lamberts decide to abandon the house and move elsewhere. This is pretty huge. I’m not sure if you’ve ever uprooted and moved but there is a lot to carry. Even with help, which they have hired, you’re stressing all the time, trying to get your shit moved. In short, it sucks. I hope I don’t have to move again for many many moons. But them again, these folks have a demon stalking them. If he’s in the house, they can escape, so I get why they do. Houses work to scare people. You can do so much with hinges, alarms, hideaway beds, fire escapes, cellars, attics, and the like. AND let me tell you, James Wan fucking uses the house in a way I have not seen. I got more scared by things that weren’t there than by things that surprised me were there. HIgh five on the spooky house work Mr. Wan! I recall one example vividly when the camera pans through one window showing a scary silhouette into another and the figure is gone. I would love to know how he did that. I have a feeling it was a practical non cgi effect. Mr. Wan, I’ll buy the coffee lol let’s hang dude.

In the new house, Renai sees the ghost of a dancing boy who leads her to Dalton’s room. Josh’s mother, Lorraine, visits them one day, and says she had a dream in which a dark figure in Dalton’s room replies “Dalton” when she asks what it wants. At the same time, she sees the same dark figure, a monstrous red-faced demon standing behind Josh and screams, while Dalton’s room is ransacked and Dalton himself is found lying on the floor. Lorraine is played by Barbara Hershey and her looks and moodiness is so perfect for the role. As a well known famous and award winning actress, it would be possible for her to wreck the buzz we have going in favor of thoughts about “Beaches” and Bette Midler but thanks to her incredible belief in the movie that you can feel, that doesn’t happen. Our Insidious universe is only enhanced.

Lorraine calls demonologists Elise Reiner, Specs, and Tucker. Elise senses a presence in the house and upon entering Dalton’s room sees something on the ceiling. Specs draws the demonic, red-faced figure Lorraine saw. At this point we are all in the dark about what it happening but the edges of the plot are starting to become clearer.

Elise explains that Dalton is not in a coma; he was born with the ability to travel mentally to the astral plane, and had been doing so in his sleep, believing his abilities to merely be dreams. He had traveled too far and became lost in a purgatory realm called “The Further”, a place inhabited by the tortured souls of the dead. Without his mental presence, Dalton’s body appears comatose and spirits can use it to enter the physical world. Josh is skeptical until he realizes that drawings in Dalton’s bedroom hinted at his astral projection abilities and the same red-faced demon Lorraine had seen.I’ll call him “Red.” The Red demon is no longer a mystery. He starts to be in scene after scene. He is the dude you want OUT of your home. As if it was that easy. The jump scare where a crescent sliver of his face is sticking out from Josh’s is the stuff that great horror images are made of. I am scared of this guy but I want Red to come back to send chills up my spine and he does, just enough, not too much. Again, the genius of James Wan at play.

Elise performs a seance to communicate with Dalton, but they contact the demon who uses Dalton’s body to attack them until it is stopped by Elise. Elise reveals that her acquaintance with Lorraine is decades old, because she previously performed the same service on Josh when he was eight years old. Josh was terrorized by night terrors that always included the parasitic spirit of an old woman. Lorraine dismissed his nightmares until the spirit showed up in her photos of Josh, progressively getting closer each time. Josh also possesses the ability to astral project, though he had suppressed his memory of the ability years prior with Elise’s help. Dalton has inherited this trait from him. Elise tells Josh that the only way to rescue Dalton is for him to go into the Further. This is the best part of the movie for me. The scares work because the dead and the killer are still. We do hear a gunshot but the creepy people in their living room. one ironing, others bringing food, simply remain still. The face of the female shooter is the essence of horror to me. I really love this part they call “The Further.” Again, I want to reiterate and remind you this got a PG-13 rating. I find it scarier than some R’s.

Elise puts Josh in a trance and he is able to project himself to their previous house. He goes to the attic, but is attacked by the same figure that attacked Renai. After defeating him, Josh enters the Demon’s lair, where Josh finds Dalton chained to the floor. Josh frees him, but they are caught by the demon while the spirits of the Further invade the real world and terrorize Elise, Renai, and the others. After managing to escape, Josh confronts the old woman that haunted him as a child. The old woman dissolves into darkness after Josh shouts at it to leave him alone. When Josh and Dalton return to their bodies, they wake up in their new home and the spirits seem to disappear.

As they celebrate the apparent end of their ordeal, Elise starts packing her equipment with Josh, when she senses that something is wrong, noticing Josh’s hands look old and dirty, she takes a photo of him. Josh, enraged by this, strangles Elise to death. Renai is horrified when she discovers Elise’s dead body and searches for Josh. Renai picks up the camera and sees that the image Elise took of Josh is the old woman that haunted him as a child, implying that Josh has been possessed. Josh suddenly puts his hand on her shoulder, says “Renai, I’m here”, and she turns around and gasps.

So now, we are set up for sequels and prequels which for me does not make a film work. This one works as is and I sort of wish as I do with Star Wars, they would never have made a prequel or sequel. …

The Witch (2016)

The film has a very confusing premise that never really resolves itself. However, it is certifiably creepy and that goes miles for this horror fan.

Since A24 is gaining a credibility I don’t think it altogether deserves, I thought I’d republish my review of an early film they produced. This film had a lot of potential but didn’t get there for me. I think THAT is really what defines this brand and that really sucks. I hope that changes. I wrote the content below when this film came out.

The Witch (2016)

 

Cast

Anya Taylor-Joy as Thomasin
Ralph Ineson as William
Kate Dickie as Katherine
Harvey Scrimshaw as Caleb

Directed by

Robert Eggers

Written by

Robert Eggers

Horror
Rated R for disturbing violent content and graphic nudity
1h 32min

I saw this film not knowing what to expect. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a rating in the 80% range so I was naturally curious since I rarely see horror films doing so well. The audience was not favoring it quite as much so that made me wonder what was going on here. Sometimes that means it’s a “movie makers” movie and not one the average American is going to “get.” I was right about that I think. This film has received a Sundance “best director” award and all sorts of other laurels on its poster. Usually those mean foreign film but in this case they are festival awards. This movie is taking the critics by storm. I think the audience will get on the bus sooner or later. Please understand, this film is not the easiest to understand but it still combines several powerful themes to make a hard hitting horror film and I love it!

It displays the cruelty of religion in the same way the Crucible and the Scarlet Letter. It takes it all the way into the psyche of a Puritan family and causes them all to question whether each other are witches. Mind blowing. It’s not a horror movie per se but it uses elements of diverse themes to create an original movie. Don’t watch this movie hoping it to make sense but rather dwell among the family and observe the sickness that religion can become. The ending may perplex some or it may be an awakening. I think the director wants us to draw conclusions but not in a concrete way. Why does the heroine walk naked into the trees? What caused this transformation? Did she make the choice or was it destiny made for her by her family? Is the family innocent? This dark tale raises more questions than answers. Though much is never explained, it’s the experience of these unexplained things that is the essence of the ride. We may not want to get off but the director pulls off our seat belts at the credits and says GO NOW! Then, we have to think about it. I’ve been doing so for 2 days straight and it’s lovely. 7/10

Pyewacket

I’ve seen a few films recently where people use the black arts or occult spells like The Alchemist’s Cookbook and A Dark Song. This is another to add to that list.

Pyewacket (2017)
1h 30min | Horror, Thriller | 23 March 2018 (USA)

A frustrated, angst-ridden teenage girl awakens something in the woods when she naively performs an occult ritual to evoke a witch to kill her mother.
Director: Adam MacDonald
Writer: Adam MacDonald
Stars: Nicole Muñoz, Laurie Holden, Chloe Rose

Adam MacDonald is our director. He is known for “Backcountry” the bear horror movie. He does a good job here. I’ll definitely be looking for more from him especially in the horror genre.

Leah is our protagonist here. She has all the trappings of a high school student: hates her mom, into black magic, cuts herself … well unfortunately these days all those are common things. There is tension throughout and an awesome score helping to make that happen. I like it that the scares are more drawn out thoughtful ones and not jump scares. It builds the story slowly and has a spooky tone throughout (which I value in horror).

This is certainly one to check out for all you horror buffs out there. Enjoy. I gave it 7/10.

The Visitor

A blogger level film critic doesn’t enjoy many all-expenses paid things. I read about Roger Ebert being sent to Cannes year after year. So far, that ‘aint happening here. But I can write and podcast stuff about movies here and get it off my chest. That is gratifying. I hope you enjoy. Listen in the player below to my audio movie review of “The Visitor” and a little banter as I am wont to do.

This is a fun movie I did an audio review of and I’m super happy to share this episode with you. One more banterism for you: what do you sppose movies would be like if we stopped paying money for comic book films? Just a thought. No judgement (at least not much). Now, to intro the epsiode:

I review this 70’s drive-in oddity. Episode includes a “bird walk” on the meaning of left and right wing that sort of flew in out of nowhere. I recorded and mixed this one on vacation at Stateline. You’re welcome.

The Visitor (1979)
Stridulum (original title)
R | 1h 48min | Horror, Sci-Fi | 21 November 1980 (USA)

The soul of a young girl with telekinetic powers becomes the prize in a fight between forces of God and the Devil.
Director: Giulio Paradisi (as Michael J. Paradise)
Writers: Luciano Comici (screenplay) (as Lou Comici), Robert Mundi (screenplay) (as Robert Mundy) | 2 more credits »
Stars: Mel Ferrer, Glenn Ford, Lance Henriksen

Most Beautiful Island

(A written and audio review) This is a last minute surprise for thriller/horror made in 2017. I watched it in utter delight, a really great film. Of course, I decided to share my enthusiasm with my voice, here on the podcast. I hope you enjoy. Listen to the episode on this film below. Below that is my written review.

Most Beautiful Island (2017)
1h 20min | Drama, Horror, Thriller | 3 November 2017 (USA)
Most Beautiful Island is a chilling portrait of an undocumented young woman’s struggle for survival as she finds redemption from a tortured past in a dangerous game.
Director: Ana Asensio
Writer: Ana Asensio
Stars: Ana Asensio, Natasha Romanova, David Little

A Dark Song (Written and Audio Review)

Horror movies have talked about love and loss before but not usually this deeply. The issues are so deep in fact, one might question whether they belong in a horror film. They exist just the same and while watching this film you don’t just see them on screen, you absorb them. The longing of the protagonist and her helper calling on the black arts becomes our own … “poor us,” as the ritual master says, in that sense. I also invite you to listen to my podcast below. (Continue reading the written version below the player)

A Dark Song (2016)
1h 40min | Drama, Horror | 28 April 2017 (USA)

A determined young woman and a damaged occultist risk their lives and souls to perform a dangerous ritual that will grant them what they want.
Director: Liam Gavin
Writer: Liam Gavin
Stars: Mark Huberman, Susan Loughnane, Steve Oram

I can sum up this, Liam Gavin’s directorial debut, by saying it moves way too slow for the first 3/4 but the last act is the stuff you take home to your nightmares. We needed the visuals in the first 3/4, they were sadly absent. I hope when Liam gets his next project he remembers that. I really can’t recommend this film to all horror fans because I found it nearly impossible to sit through but I might say if you have fast forward abilities, go to the final act. You’ll see things there you’ve never seen.

Back to non-spoiler territory: The protagonist has lost her son to occultists who ceremoniously murdered him. She pays another occultist to take her through rituals to enable her to talk to her guardian angel and her son to seek revenge. It’s gritty and you expect typical demonic stuff that only lightly comes. It is basically a hodgepodge character study of two dysfunctional people churning, tortured by desire and vegeance, seeking to call on the supernatural realm for relief … and failing. The end third is worth it. This is a movie to discuss, without a doubt. Watch for Liam Gavin’s future work as I will.

8/10

Swamp Thing & Them

(Audio and written review) “Swamp Thing” is a horror movie that at times may come across as a bit funny but it is meant as a serious film. It looks like a throw back to films like “The Creature from the Black Lagoon.” Continue reading my written review and/or listen to my podcast review below. In this case, the podcast has much more material. For example I do a short review of the foreign horror film “Them” in this episode. Listen in the player below and/or keep reading the review.

Swamp Thing (1982)
PG | 1h 31min | Horror, Sci-Fi | 19 February 1982 (USA)

After a violent incident with a special chemical, a research scientist is turned into a swamp plant monster.
Director: Wes Craven
Writers: Wes Craven, Len Wein (comic book)
Stars: Louis Jourdan, Adrienne Barbeau, Ray Wise

It’s from 1982 so there wasn’t that much of a challenge on films to have the perfect cgi and graphics. They did a pretty good job with effects anyway. It was direct by Wes Craven who we all know from a “Nightmare on Elm Scream” and “Scream” and many other beloved horror films. “Swamp Thing” is a Sci-Fi horror. It’s also a theme where the monster grabs the woman and she screams but the creature does not hurt the woman. We see a similar thing in “King Kong” and “Creature from the Black Lagoon.”

We have a scientist who is trying to make something that will cure the whole world’s hunger problem. He’s a “good guy.” The chemical he is working on explodes in his face as bad men are seeking the formula. As a result, he become 1/2 man 1/2 animal. His suit is both rustic and great. By today’s cgi standards they could have done a lot better but it’s still great. At one point he throws a lot of people. This is done in a rustic and funny fashion, almost like 70’s television: the “A Team” and stuff like that.

The woman is Adrienne Barbeaux. She starts off homely but as she sheds clothing and starts to go on the run, she reveals that she is very hot! Never judge a book by its introduction!

So in this film, we get it all: a creature and a beautiful leading lady. I greatly enjoyed this film and give it an 8/10.

M.F.A. (Written & audio review)

On Netflix as of 4/11/2018. My Score: 7/10 Francesca Eastwood, yes the daughter, plays the glam graduate student of art who gets distracted by the crimes of others and chooses to cope with her trauma. I enjoyed this imperfect film. Listen to my audio review below and read my written review lower.

M.F.A. (2017)
Not Rated | 1h 32min | Thriller | 13 October 2017 (USA)

An art student taps into a rich source of creative inspiration after the accidental slaughter of her rapist. An unlikely vigilante emerges, set out to avenge college girls whose attackers walked free.
Director: Natalia Leite
Writer: Leah McKendrick
Stars: Francesca Eastwood, Clifton Collins Jr., Leah McKendrick

Pros: Francesca Eastwood, yes the daughter of Clint Eastwood, fronts this film of vengeance. It’s interesting to watch her struggle to improve her art and finally get recognition for it. Her facial expressions add to her acting abilities. In general, this film is fun to watch. Needed more good men, most are depicted as savages. The film remnded me a bit in tone of “American Mary” though not as body horror and not as gory.

Cons: Some of the material is non-credible. Suicides and covering tracks so well no one sees for a long time what is happening. The film assumes that most women would justify killing rapists. This is somewhat dealt with in the end but not completely. I wouldn’t call it horror it’s more of a thriller.

My Bloody Valentine

My score: 6/10. Now streaming on Amazon Prime. 90’s horror had a certain look about it that continued into the 00’s. IN this we see Kerr Smith pop up and in between the blood and gore, there’s an air of Dawson’s Creek that can’t be shaken. But this aint no creek, we’re in a mine now and there a killer loose.

My Bloody Valentine (2009)
R | 1h 41min | Horror, Mystery, Thriller | 16 January 2009 (USA)

Tom returns to his hometown on the tenth anniversary of the Valentine’s night massacre that claimed the lives of 22 people. Instead of a homecoming, Tom finds himself suspected of committing the murders, and it seems like his old flame is the only one that believes he’s innocent.
Director: Patrick Lussier
Writers: Todd Farmer (screenplay), Zane Smith (screenplay) | 2 more credits »
Stars: Jensen Ackles, Jaime King, Kerr Smith

Pros: A lot of action and blood. There is some nudity and scenes that are no holds barred. The brutality is fun and for a horror movie, I feel like you get your money’s worth.

Cons: The story is weak and the characters are very developed. It’s quite formulaic borrowing from all the slasher classics. There is n deep creepiness, more just slice and dice. Watches like a Buffy the Vampire Slayer et. al.

I enjoyed this one but wouldn’t recommend it as scary or interesting, just slasher fun. 6/10.