Directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot [Other horror films: N/A]
This French classic, widely known as Diabolique, has never been a particular favorite of mine. It’s a solid film, with a strong atmosphere permeating the whole product, and of course, the finale is pretty great, but at almost two hours long, every time I see this, I can’t help but feel as though it drags at points.
Obviously, this film has received critical acclaim, and later went on to inspire Psycho, so you know it’s heart’s in the right place, but on a personal level, I just can’t fully find it in me to love the movie. This isn’t to say I dislike it – like I said, Diabolique has a great atmosphere – but when it comes to classic horror films to watch, this wouldn’t really make my list, unless I was focused on French horror from the mid-1950’s.
None of this is supposed to sound harsh, and to spoil things, I’m giving this movie an average rating; I just feel as though I’m in the awkward position to defend an unpopular opinion on a movie that I don’t even dislike. I think Diabolique is an okay movie, and the finale obviously went on to influence hundreds of other films (and to be entirely fair, this film is based on a novel – Celle qui n’était plus, or She Who Was No More), but I personally find much of it a slough to get through.
Véra Clouzot (who died just five years later, at the age of 46) worked well with Simone Signoret. The pair of them made for good protagonists, and as the movie kept going, you could see the increased pressure they were under to try and figure out exactly what was going on. I found Clouzot’s character quite irksome at times – her ability to lie was worse than Janet Leigh’s character in Psycho – but her performance was sound. Paul Meurisse played a horribly unlikable man well, and I liked Charles Vanel’s gruff, yet paradoxically gentle, version of a private detective.
For a classic piece of cinema that inspired so many future films, Diabolique is definitely a movie worth seeing. It’s an atmospheric and moody film with beautiful cinematography and great tension. Of course, it’s also two hours long, and I just don’t know if there’s as much meat as I’d prefer. If you’re offended I’m not giving this a higher score, then worst case scenario, don’t listen to me, and ignore all my reviews. It’s the best I can say.