The Movie Waffler New Release Review (VOD) - DIANE | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review (VOD) - DIANE

diane movie review
A PTSD suffering veteran becomes obsessed with the female corpse he discovers in his garden.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Michael Mongillo

Starring: Jason Alan Smith, Carlee Avers, Margaret Rose Champagne, Dick Boland

diane movie poster

Diane, indie auteur Michael Mongillo’s horror inflected thriller, opens with a poignant tableau. In an abstracted sequence, the eponymous chanteuse sings directly to the audience in a screen filling medium shot; key lighting exalts actress Carlee Avers’ excessive beauty and the celestial glitter of her satin black dress, imbuing her torch song - ‘I won’t go quietly’ - with distressing glamour. These opening moments are both arresting and dreamlike (and, yes, Lynchian); a compelling touchstone which serves to anchor the narrative of obsession and ruined psychology that follows…

diane movie review

From this languid, luxurious opening we hard transition to the exacting milieus of our central character Steve (a very good Jason Alan Smith). Steve, in his day job as a mechanic, inhabits a masculine world of heavy machinery, bluesy rock music and two-day old stubble, an existence so day-to-night functional that it seems to hermetically seal Steve from meaningful human contact. His communications with his boss are brusquely practical, and we see him attempt to chat with a nice-looking girl at the bus stop who treats him with barely disguised contempt. Or does she? See, Steve is a war veteran who is haunted by his soldier past both physically (in the form of a gammy leg) and psychologically via PTSD.

The bleached verisimilitude of Diane’s mise-en-scene (shooting location Hartford, Connecticut makes for an expressively anonymous backdrop) is a severe canvas which further fortifies the idiosyncratic perspectives of Steve. We’re unsure of how much we’re witnessing is from hard drinking Steve’s ruined, highly subjective standpoints even before he happens upon the unlikely but striking sight of Diane in his back yard: this time not so comely, being stripped naked, contorted and very dead from a screwdriver wound in her flank (a trauma that deliberately adopts crucifixion overtones).

diane movie review

Our boy does the right thing in calling the police, but not before, oddly, taking a photograph of the splayed corpse - yikes! The film then makes like a wrong-side-of-the-tracks distant cousin of Vertigo, with Steve fixating upon the murdered woman’s image, which in turn pulls him deeper into obsession. Is this fascination a symptom of our boy’s loneliness and inability to socialise, her death allowing him to engage with Diane from a safe, blank distance, or are there darker elements at play?

Diane’s plot opens up into a mystery that questions Steve’s potential involvement in the murder. His PTSD means that his memory is in worse shape than his leg, and while he maintains that he has never seen the dead girl before, it cannot be mere coincidence that he is aggressively haunted by her imagined/spectral image.

diane movie review

Mongillo affects a delicious weirdness in his storytelling, an approach often aspired to but rarely executed with the sort of control and panache which Diane manages. Nominally marketed as a horror (the film had its British premiere in genre festival Frightfest last year), Mongillo manipulates various genre tropes to support the pleasing disorientation of Diane’s narrative. Most enjoyably there is a corny but fun procedural element - "We’ve got a vet with a history of violent outbursts and a dead girl in his back yard" - with hard boiled cops all over Steve, and even a few J-Horror-ish jump scares (lank black hair, furious female ghosts).

Although Diane’s final act essays a denouement that is both unlikely and somewhat over familiar to the sort of thrillers that are predicated upon plot-driven amnesia, there is a spirited approach to Diane’s energetic genre blending and stark, cool style. Like the persistent, petulant ghost of Diane, this one proves hard to shake off.

Diane is on VOD September 17th.