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'The Diabolical' a weak horror-thriller

movie review, 'The Diabolical,' Alistair Legrand, Luke Harvis, Ali Larter, Max Rose, Chloe Perrin, Arjun Gupta, Mark Steger, Patrick Fischler, Merrin Dungey

"The Diabolical" is a tepid horror-thriller that never manages to sell, much less clarify, its potentially ambitious concept. Directed by Alistair Legrand from a script he wrote with Luke Harvis, the film is hokey at times and gets more convoluted — and less shocking — as it goes.

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Madison (Ali Larter) is a suburban widow with two kids, serious debt and a nice-looking house that's proving to be haunted. Or at least some version of haunted: Three grotesque entities are scaring the heck out of the family — Madison, the brainy but combative Jacob (Max Rose) and the younger, better adjusted Hayley (Chloe Perrin) — but the apparitions regularly, predictably vanish before much damage is done. What are they exactly and what do they want?

That's what Madison's scientist-with-a-past boyfriend Nikolai (Arjun Gupta) tries to find out using some indistinct machinery and generic-sounding calculus. That all leads to a hodgepodge of bloody mayhem, eerie visuals and far-flung ideas involving teleportation that never effectively congeals.

The film is peppered with lackluster supporting roles, including an ineffectual shrink (Merrin Dungey), a stumped immunologist (Mark Steger) and a shifty land developer (Patrick Fischler). Meanwhile, the fraught, more seemingly complex Madison remains underdeveloped. And what of her late husband? What really happened to him?

"The Diabolical" is simply not diabolical enough.

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"The Diabolical"

MPAA rating: None

Running time: 1 hour, 26 minutes.

Playing: Arena, Hollywood. Also on VOD.

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