Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Diabolique (1996)

In 1955, A hitchcockian thriller called Les Diaboliques scared up French audiences with high tense suspense and a shocking surprise ending that had everybody talking. 41 years later, writers Herni-Georges Clouzot and Dan Ross and Director Jeremiah S. Chechik, whose best known for National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation and Benny and Joon, decided to remake the movie starring Sharon Stone, Isabelle Adjani, Chazz Palminteri, and Kathy Bates. Now I wouldn't call the original a "horror movie", It was just psychological thriller with horror movie elements. So I really don't see how a director, who's not particularly known for thrillers, would remake this.
Looking at this movie was like watching an overly long, over-the-top soap opera to the point where it becomes campy and unintentionally funny. Even Sharon Stone thought this was a black comedy, which the movie could've worked better that way. Most of the film drags on too long to the point where you just want to get it over with and it has no suspense what so ever. A Lifetime Movie Of The Week would have  better payoffs and suspense than this movie. Actually there was a Lifetime TV version of this that was much better in my opinion. In the end, it could've went well with what it was given but besides the great cast, it's wavered down by a bad script and bad choice for a director.
The Story: The wife of an abusive headmaster and his mistress decides to get rid of him once and for all by drowning his body and leaving it for dead in the pool. After that, strange events occur and panic and paranoia starts to creep on the two women. Which brings the question is the husband is dead or.....alive.

Again, you have really good actors for the cast, however, it still doesn't save the movie and you're kind of left disappointed.

Sharon Stone is playing her usual ice queen roles, a role that she plays best. Her character in the movie is sort of like the scary stern teacher trapped in a body of a glamorous movie star.

Speaking of which, it shows that the Nicole character lives in this rinky dink apartment in Pittsburgh. I know Teacher's salaries are pretty low these days but how the hell could she afford those expensive clothes?

Anywho, the movie tries to play up the ambiguity of the character whether she is with or against Mia, which works in a way I guess. Sharon Stone was actually the highlight of the movie. I thought her catty remarks and saucy spitfire attitude was just a treat to watch. It shows that she didn't take the movie seriously as much as the audience did.

Isabella Adjani was perfectly casted for a role like this since she's known for playing broken-down fragile characters. Though there were times where she's a little stiff but it was all about the emotion she put into the performance. Isabella Adjani is a very expressive actress and it was good that she was able to convey a put-upon character like Mia is.

But it all comes down of how the character is written. There were times where Mia comes off like a bumbling idiot and you just wanted to slap her. She couldn't just keep it together for one second after her and Nicole "murdered" Guy. I know the character is supposed to be paranoid and nervous, which is the catalyst for her weak heart, but the choices she makes make her less than smart. But I would say that Isabella Adjani gave an okay performance.

Chazz Palmentiri is pretty much known for playing menacing villains, especially in mobster films but I can't help to say he was kind of phoning it in. The same goes for Sharon Stone because she's good at what she does though Palmenitri was expected to play a role like this. So I'm not going to dwell too much on his performance, he was good either way.

As for the Guy character, one of the more abusive things he does to his wife is say how much she's lousy in bed and in one scene forces her to eat cafeteria in which all the teachers and students refer to as 'dog shit'(even though it doesn't look that bad) and is also implied to be something of a gold digger, marrying Mia so he can have full control of the school. So the Guy character is pretty much comes off like the generic villain and there's not much more to that really.

The one drastic change the movie did was by changing the detective character into a woman to have some sort of feminist underling to survey the plot of the story. Played by Kathy Bates, the detective seems a little bitter about men. It's one thing to have a strong female character, I would give the movie points for that, but to have her be this ball-busting crusader against men is a little contradicting and you sort of know where the film is going at the point. It's best to show not tell is what I'm saying. Even Sharon Stone's character bitches about her and says, "I hate that in-your-face survivor crap." You see comments like that makes me wonder why wasn't this movie turned into a comedy or a parody of some sorts.
There is absolutely no suspense or tension in this movie. I barely wouldn't even call this a horror movie even though the 1955 movie is called a horror movie in it's own right. However, this fails to capture any of the scarier moments the original had.

I would say the lesbian subtext that was in the original was just subtext. In this version, they try to play that up. Since Sharon Stone and Isabella Adjani are two attractive women, the movie tries to have sexual tension between the two characters just so it could be a ploy to have male butts in the theater. It's implied that Nicole is secretly in love with Mia and is jealous of Guy, even though she's in a sexual relationship with him but it doesn't go anywhere.  You're left wondering what if but it's all sexual tension and nothing else.
The original's ending after the shocking twist, really didn't dwell on me. The movie just abruptly ended and that's that. But this version changed that all right. So this is the moment you've been waiting for the twist ending that pretty much had everybody talking....though not in a good way:
So Mia, in full sense of panic and paranoia, is wondering whether she is hallucinating if Guy is alive or not, finally sees him in the bathtub, seemingly dead. Then all of a sudden, he rises, staring at her with dead white eyes. Mia in full shock, has a heart attack and dies. Okay just to add this here: what made the twist of the original great was how unexpected it was while the suspense and tension was on full high. Unfortunately in this version, it fails to capture any of that and also felt rushed.

So Nicole comes in and Guy is all happy that their 'plan' worked, then once Nicole looks down at Mia, turns out Mia is still alive and once Guy catches wind of this, the two women play a cat and mouse game until all three of them duke it out in the swimming pool until Mia and Nicole are able to drown Guy, again, leaving him dead once and for all.

Then Detective Voguel comes along and out of nowhere punches Mia in the face, claiming that will be evidence for self defense. And so as the two women leave off and move on with their lives, Voguel triumphantly smokes a cigarette while looking down at Guy's drowned body.
Wow. Just wow. I have never seen an ending so stupid. It had no excitement what so ever and it just left me blank the entire time. I wasn't really bothered that the movie kept Mia alive, I will give more points to that, but again like the original's ending, there's just no impact.
There's nothing more for me to say except this was marketed it as a sexy Sharon Stone thriller but it's neither sexy nor thrilling and the audience was therefore left unsatisfied as this was box office bomb upon it's release.
The Verdict? Watch the original or better yet the 1993 Lifetime version. Yeah, it's kind of cheesy but at least there's more to it. But for your amusement, you could probably give the 1996 a watch as well.
My Last Word: it's up to you, though this could be a chore to sit through.


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