Directed by Farhad Mann [Other horror films: Nick Knight (1989), The Lost Treasure of the Grand Canyon (2008)]
This Canadian made-for-television horror film definitely feels like it’s on the lower spectrum of movies. Devil’s Diary isn’t really terrible, but it does feel overly generic and derivative, and personally, while some scenes were fun, I don’t think I’d go out of my way to watch it again.
You can really tell that there was a limited budget on this, and you can obviously tell it’s a television production, what with the hideous commercial cuts (screen flashes red) apparent in the film. The special effects, such as they were, were somewhat laughable, though we did get a few scenes that bordered on decent (such as the slow-motion car sequence as a vehicle slammed into someone’s legs).
If there’s any high point to the film, it’s in the performances. Alexz Johnson and Magda Apanowicz, when together, reminded me a lot of Brigitte and Ginger (Emily Perkins and Katharine Isabella from Ginger Snaps), and I rather liked their friendship. Johnson’s character herself (Dominique) was actually pretty sympathetic, with a recently-deceased father and a borderline sexually abusive stepfather (there’s a scene in which she’s talking to her father’s gravestone, which I found particularly touching), though she loses a little bit of sympathy as the movie drags on.
While I abhorred their characters and everything they stood for, Laura Carswell, Deanne Casaluce, and Mariam McDonald all did great as the stereotypical bitchy cheerleader types, so much so that I hated their very existence from virtually their first scene. The three of them take somewhat interesting routes through the film, but I don’t think any of them come out particularly redeemed for their bullying. Brian Krause, as a priest, didn’t really leave an impact on me, but for a character who appeared only a few minutes total, I did like Malcolm Scott. Andrea Brooks’ character had a lot of potential, but they never really did much with her.
Plot-wise, I do appreciate how they threw in a few turns, and the movie did sort of shift gears around halfway though (I’m not overly pleased with the resulting scenes, but at least they tried). At the end, they sort of threw in a twist that came as a surprise, but I wish that more time was spent on why it exactly happened. Also, I really didn’t care for the enchantress powers one of the characters gained toward the back-half of the film, in which every guy desired this girl, and went to foolish lengths to make her happy. Still, generally-speaking, I think the plot’s okay, just not great.
The biggest issue I really have with this is that it feels like the type of film that could have been made much earlier, and feels a lot like fellow television movie Satan’s School for Girls (2000). There’s nothing terribly unique about this film, and the deaths and accidents are mostly bland and forgettable (a strangling being perhaps the worst, an attempted crucifixion the best). For a television movie, I think it’s okay, bordering on bad. Ultimately, though, despite some potentially bold routes the film took, I think most people would forget this one shortly after finishing it. Oh, and the ending was pretty awful, which is probably to be expected.