Diabolique, the 1996 remake, is sometimes tagged as horror. It’s also considered drama and a thriller, so how you classify it has some flexibility. One thing it’s generally not classified as is “good.” Most remakes suffer in comparison to the originals, and their originating novels explain a lot more. Still, it’s set near Pittsburgh and it has a lot of religious imagery in it. In case you’re not familiar—it’s the story of a love triangle involving a particularly odious man and two women who inexplicably adore him. One of the women is a young, wealthy heiress who inherited a private school outside the city. She’s a teacher at the school and her cheating husband is the principal. Her best friend, beknownst to her, is sleeping with her lecherous husband. But the best friend also protects the wife from her husband’s bullying.
The wife, a former nun, has a heart condition. Her husband and best friend plot to scare her to death and inherit the school and all her money. They do this via an elaborate—almost Rube Goldberg-esque—ruse where the women drown the man and he then “comes back to life” frightening the former nun into a heart attack. Her best friend, apparently, repents along the way and along with the wife, end up drowning her husband for real when he attacks both of them. You kind of get the sense that there are few characters with whom to empathize and although this could’ve been a feminist manifesto, it was directed by a man and missed that opportunity. So why am I discussing it here?
The use of religion in this film is intriguing. Throughout the school there’s discarded religious imagery. Crosses cast aside, empty holy water fonts, grace not said before meals. The husband, not a believer, has put all of that aside. His wife, convinced she’s murdered her husband, confesses. Then engages a private investigator, for appearances’ sake. The thing is, the religious imagery doesn’t really come into contact with the story. The only real exception is when the wife uses the cross she’s wearing to gouge her husband’s face. A strange form of salvation indeed. The movie isn’t that good (it’s free on Amazon Prime, though) but it underscores once again that religion does find a natural partner in crime with horror. Or in this case, a thriller. However you want to classify it. The plot twists aren’t effectively executed but I suppose it’s better than a crucifix in your eye.
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