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Review: Thriller ‘Diane’ doesn’t go the distance

Jason Alan Smith as Steve in Mean Time Productions forth feature, the supernatural thriller, “Diane,
Jason Alan Smith in the movie “Diane.”
(Mean Time Productions)

There’s an outstanding short film lurking within “Diane,” a sketchy, enigmatic thriller that writer-director Michael Mongillo (reworking a Matt Giannini screenplay) can’t quite fill out into a feature. Strong performances and some memorably dramatic moments suggest what might have been, had the movie been more focused.

Carlee Avers plays the title character, introduced in a riveting opening scene singing a torch song directly into the camera. A few minutes later, a wounded U.S. Army veteran named Steve (Jason Alan Smith) finds her dead in her underwear in his Connecticut backyard, impaled by a screwdriver.

Though the police suspect Steve, he insists he doesn’t know Diane. But as he stares at a cellphone photo of her corpse, he begins to remember — or perhaps hallucinate — a tumultuous romantic relationship.

Mongillo evokes Steve’s scattered state of mind by deploying a variety of visual styles. The movie shifts between vivid, colorful fantasy/flashback sequences and desaturated realism. The dialogue too is a mix, jumping from punchy cop-speak to long, earnest, getting-to-know-you conversations between young lovers.

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“Diane” remains intentionally vague for much of its running time about whether the hero’s being haunted by his memories or by a literal supernatural spirit; and even when the payoff comes, the intent is still primarily to explain the mind-set of a depressed ex-soldier. But while that’s an interesting direction for a suspense picture to take, it’s a path that gets needlessly complicated by too much aimless wandering.

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‘Diane’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 21 minutes

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Playing: Starts Friday, Arena Cinelounge, Hollywood


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