Starring: Simone Signoret, Véra Clouzot, Paul Meurisse
Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot
Running Time: 115 mins
Diabolique is a French film about two women, unhappy in their relationship with a controlling and abusive man, who set out to murder him, with unexpectedly terrifying consequences coming about as a result of their plans.
Well, this is quite an eerie and unsettling thriller with strong tension present throughout, interesting characters, some pretty scary scenes by 1950s standards, and a stunningly unpredictable climax that will have you on the edge of your seat.
This film is credited as being one of the major influences for the book and film of Psycho, and by watching this, you can easily see where a lot of the ideas and techniques for Hitchcock’s horror classic came from.
One of the most evident similarities is the presence of tension in the story from start to finish. Here, the two main characters are constantly on edge about everything, and it genuinely seems like their whole worlds are about to fall apart at every moment, making this a very exciting thriller throughout, not just a slow-burn story with a strong climax, and that’s a feat that’s pretty difficult to accomplish effectively, which is why Psycho is also so heralded as a landmark in the thriller genre.
What’s more is that our main characters are brilliantly interesting. They’re not just angry women who want to get back at their horrible partner with little reasoning behind it, they’ve got a long story together that makes their thirst to murder this man all the more convincing.
However, these two women still aren’t particularly strong characters. There is a contrast between Simone Signoret’s more held-together character and Véra Clouzot’s more angsty and weak persona, but on the whole, it never seems as if the duo’s plans are entirely foolproof due to the threat of being found out on numerous occasions, heightening the tension even more.
Also, for a film released in 1955, this is pretty graphic, with some scary scenes that will still shock audiences from today. Of course, it’s nothing gory, but it’s graphic in a similar sense to Psycho, where the director takes liberties with production codes (although in France, they were a lot more lenient than the US back then) to create a bigger shock value, and it really works in making a scarier, and therefore more intense thriller.
Finally, the climax to this film is excellent. Although it’s still exciting throughout, the story finishes on a shockingly unpredictable note, and one that is definitely worth sitting through two hours to reach.
Overall, this gets a 7.9, due to its excellent tension throughout, interesting but not infallible protagonists, effective shock value and stunning finale, making this a properly exciting watch.