“There is only one possible end. We are monsters. I don’t like monsters.”
Little Movie Reviews is ringing in the Halloween spooks with a review for Henri-Georges Clouzot’s 1955 horror, Diabolique. This classic film, fully enveloped with twists and turns, makes for one of the best scary movies.
Diabolique tells the tale of Christina Delassalle (Véra Clouzot) a woman with a debilitating heart condition who finds herself in an abusive marriage with Michel (Paul Meurisse). The couple run a school, or should I say Michel runs the school while it’s paid for with Christina’s family inheritance. Michel’s despicable persona doesn’t stop with his abuse towards Christina. He runs around with his mistress, fellow school teacher, Nicole Horner (Simone Signoret) —parading their sexual relationship so the other teachers, and Christina, can plainly see. But now Nicole is, too, at odds with Michel, unable to get out from his heel. Nicole wants to conspire with Christina, to take down this awful man — putting together a plan to kill Michel. But when the two women find themselves too deep within their web of lies, their plan takes a unexpected turn with an outcome neither woman could have seen coming.
Clouzot was an admirer of Alfred Hitchcock, and Hitchcock was an admirer of Clouzot. The two battled for the rights to Diabolique’s source material, a novel by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac. Clouzot is said to have beat out Hitchcock by only a few hours, and the rest was cinema history. Diabolique is incredibly directed by Clouzot as the film is driven by his real-life wife, Véra Clouzot and Simone Signoret. Véra plays Christina, a devote religious woman, who even has a small altar in her bedroom. But throughout the film, Christina changes, becoming fearless throughout her scary situation. Véra had only been in one other film, her husband’s Wages of Fear — another movie that ends with a dark twist. Sadly, she didn’t have the opportunity to create a wealth of films for her resumé, after Diabolique, as she died only five years after the film’s release. But with her powerful performance as Christina, she has forever solidified herself in a prominent classic film.
Véra’s moments alongside Signoret are riveting. The women find themselves in a whirlwind of suspicious activities and lies as the lines between reality and the supernatural begin to shift. Nicole is the mastermind behind these events, and Signoret’s performance is rather creepy. Signoret has a plethora of films (Room at the Top, Ship of Fools) and an Oscar win to her name. And though you can choose from any of her great performances, her role as Nicole is the best.
There are deep layers that you find yourself slowly revealing as you watch the film. But even if the basic principles of horror were taken away, Diabolique is extremely unique, which is why it has stood the test of time. The layers that you peel back during your first watch aren’t the same layers on your second. The sinister screenplay, along with the genius directing, uncover key plot details changing with each viewing. As many times as I’ve watched it, I still find something new.
Diabolique is a French film and, with that regard, goes hand and hand with subtitles. I know that may be a “turn-off” for some, but I plead you to give it a shot. The film is incredibly immersive that you forget the subtitles are even there. Diabolique is horror at its finest with no cheap jump scares or cheesy gore. No, it cuts deeper — well into your subconscious. You may pop in this movie for a bit of entertainment, but beware… it may just scare you to death.
Directed by: Henri-Georges Clouzot
Starring: Simone Signoret, Véra Clouzot, Paul Meurisse, and Charles Vanel