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Frightfest 2017: Diane Review: Dir. Michael Mongillo (2017)

by Andy Furlong

Diane Review: A lonely man becomes obsessed with a dead body that turns up in his backyard in this murder-mystery thriller.

Diane Review

Trying to pin down what exactly director Michael Mongillo is aiming for tonally in his latest film Diane is the only mystery that needed an explanation in this uneven supernatural thriller. Billed as Stephen King and Brian De Palma meets Gus van Sant and Elmore Leonard, the film never manages to formulate into anything remotely resembling the aforementioned. Frustratingly in trying to emulate these cinematic heavy hitters Diane fails at establishing a coherent narrative and ultimately failed to grip me in even the slightest way.

Horror films are paradoxical in many ways as often much of the sloppiness of the genre can be excused by the pure visceral feeling of fear and dread that the genre and its best can generate. A film plagued by hammy acting, illogical character choices and clunky dialogue can almost become exempt from critical discourse if it manages to deliver in this way. It was one the things I find so contradictory about criticising a film based on traits that are inherently ingrained in the DNA of that film’s genre. It can become counterproductive to analyse a film under terms that the film isn’t operating under and as such when reviewing genre films I try to focus more on if the film delivers under the conditions of its assigned category, so to speak.

Diane Review

Diane has hammy acting, clunky dialogue and illogical character choices, which wouldn’t have been a problem had the film delivered in the horror department in even the slightest way. It is probably unfair to label this an out and out horror film as, in many ways, it falls under my least favourite horror sub genre: ‘the ghost story’. Diane tells the story of Steve, a disabled war veteran, who discovers the dead body of a beautiful singer named Diane in his backyard. While under investigation for the murder Steve also has to contend with being haunted by Diane’s ghost who seems far from benevolent.

Ghost stories as a sub genre are extremely difficult to pull off, as I have mentioned, and I often find them difficult to endure. This is mainly due to the stringent adherence to a convention that needs to be expertly handled in order to work. The mystery needs to intriguing, the ghost needs to be threatening and the revelation needs to be worthwhile. The Woman in Black is a perfect example of all these elements coming together to create something that delivers in all these elements. Unfortunately, Diane’s mystery is tedious, its ghost feels like a soap villain and it gives you revelations to things you just don’t care about.

Although the film is technically proficient and its lead actor Jason Alan Smith does a decent job of trying to carry the movie, albeit lumbered with the horrible material he has been given. I doubt even fans of the genre will find anything even remotely satisfying to enjoy about Diane.

Diane review by Andy Furlong, August 2017.

Diane is currently playing as part of the Horror Channel Frighfest 2017 programme. 

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