Schoolyard Principles

Rain soaks Diabolique’s first scenes, the camera panning up to a Virgin Mary statue, posed to look skyward, worried. It’s never an outright principle of Diabolique, but the setting of a strict Christian school, images placing characters under church stained glass, and near the finale, a decapitated Jesus effigy all draw religious parallels. The whole movie is draped in sin, and star Isabelle Adjani often clutches her cross necklace whenever guilt enters her mind.

Adjani killed her abusive husband, helped by a devious Sharon Stone. Murder, adultery, greed; Diabolique checks off the Ten Commandments pretty well, and Stone’s indifference to it all casts her as an easy, detestable movie villain – if also deliciously cruel.

Diabolique closes on a twisted, not-empowering bond between women

Diabolique remakes the French classic, and holds it own initially. The surly modernity allows a feminist drive, with Stone trying to lure Adjani toward a more free, open life unlike the sheltered existence under her brutish husband. While overeager to off Chazz Palminteri (resulting in an overdose of abusiveness), the script lays out its commentary on hypocrisy and fundamentalism under church rules. Diabolique openly attacks a male-dominated structure, letting some feminine fire through the door.

About halfway through, Diabolique peaks. Stone and Adjani become antsy. Being a Sharon Stone thriller from the ‘90s, things turn toward bisexuality. Seedy then, if less so now. Tension rises. Adjani panics. Stone tries to clean things up. Then it’s gone, traded for a pitiful, illogical third act climax attempting to reboot an iconic ending. If there’s evidence Diabolique came from the studio pipeline, it’s here. Slasher movie cliches, an invincible villain, a ludicrous character turn, and eye rolling twist from Kathy Bates’ detective dismantle an otherwise competent (and little more) Hollywood genre effort.

It seems pointless to cast Bates as a breast cancer survivor, a character trait without depth or function to the story. Diabolique does use it though. Bates uncovers the plot, and she sees the abuse. Knowing what Adjani and Stone did, she joins them, indirectly. Diabolique closes on a twisted, not-empowering bond between women; Bates understands because only another woman could, or so Diabolique is suggesting. Whatever the intended message about Christianity, that’s railroaded in a twisted, moronic, implausible finish.


Mill Creek crams Diabolique onto a single disc with two other Warner-produced thrillers. It shows. Grain remains, but smothered by an unbearable compression routine. So much of this image is just digital blocking rather than film footage.

There’s no harm in saying this looks like a DVD – because it does. Not only from the thick compression, but resolution too. Upscaling leaves behind notable aliasing, especially prevalent on brighter edges, specifically cars or windows. It slips in elsewhere though as well. Mastering leaves ringing and halos too, furthering the insufficient presentation.

Bland color whiffs on anything appealing. Contrast clips on occasion, but is otherwise sedate. The third act suffers from black crush, at one point turning Adjani into a floating head against a dark background. Print dirt and damage mars numerous scenes; there’s no clean-up of note.


Passable DTS-HD stereo stretches the fronts on occasion. There’s not much opportunity in such a dialog-driven story.

Fidelity hits a passable mark, well balanced, and tiny range that activates the sub once or twice. Clean highs show no signs of degradation.



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While beginning strong, the Diabolique remake falls apart by its embarrassingly stock finale.

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