Diabolique (1996)

This remake of the 1955 French horror classic is a mixed bag. Most of what works here is lifted directly from the original: The distinctive private school setting, the winding narrative, and the underlying themes of infidelity and spousal emotional abuse. Director Jemeriah Chechik clearly knows the original well and his flourishes have all the hallmarks of an attentive recreation, and he doesn’t overwhelm the narrative by trying to modernize the story too much – instead, he lets the movie’s mysteries steadily unfurl and has a knack for atmosphere and dark comedy. However, the cast is hit-or-miss: Both Sharon Stone and Chazz Palminteri are perfectly cast, with Stone’s campy severity and Palminteri’s sleazy energy complimenting each other well. On the other hand, Isabelle Adjani is weak and ineffective as Mia, while the movie seems to have no idea what to do with Kathy Bates, as she aimlessly wanders in and out of the narrative like an afterthought. In the end it’s a fairly solid thriller even as it’s held back from replicating the original’s suspenseful heights by the aforementioned drawbacks.

Rating: ★★★ (out of 5)

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