Logline: The wife of a cruel headmaster and his mistress join forces to murder him.
Review: The filmmaker Henri-Georges Clouzot made a number of suspense films that earned him the reputation of a French Hitchcock. Like Hitchcock, Clouzot was a meticulous director who explored the dark side of human nature and toyed with his audience’s emotions. Along with the equally masterful The Wages of Fear (1953), Diabolique is one of Clouzot’s crowning achievements. It is a landmark among horror films. Interestingly, it is Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) that is often referred to as a landmark film in the horror genre. However, Diabolique paved the way for Hitchcock to make Psycho and was an inspiration to the director. Diabolique is a masterpiece of horror that pulls the viewer in from the opening shot of a puddle to the film’s final scene of pure suspense.
Diabolique has very little music and instead, uses ambient sounds to fill the soundtrack. It makes the film more realistic as if we are watching strange events unfold with Christina (Vera Clouzot) and Nicole (Simone Signoret). The acting by all three leads (Clouzot, who was married to the director, Signoret, and Paul Meurisse) is superb. Charles Vanel provides some comic relief as the retired detective in an otherwise dark and pessimistic film.
Diabolique is a masterfully directed horror classic and a puzzle movie full of twists and turns that lead to many unexpected and surprising outcomes.
Rating (out of ****): ****