Diane Movie Review
Written by Ren Zelen
Released by Mean Time Productions
Directed by Michael Mongillo
Written by Michael Mongillo and Matt Giannini
2017, 82 minutes, Not yet rated
Frightfest world premiere on 26th August 2017
Jason Alan Smith as Steve
Carlee Avers as Diane
Margaret Rose Champagne as Detective Phillips
Dick Boland as Detective Bernard
Jim Thalman as Sgt. Winslow
The inclusion of Diane in the FrightFest catalogue may lead folks to suppose it is a horror film, which it certainly isn’t. It may get away with purporting to be a supernatural thriller, but even that might be a bit of a stretch. As director/co-writer Michael Mongillo has said, "I read…that ghost stories are all actually tales of atonement, and that’s Diane in a nutshell." That Diane is a bloodless drama about ‘atonement’ is probably the most accurate description.
One morning Steve (Jason Alan Smith), a wounded and alienated American veteran of the war in Afghanistan wakes up to discover the dead body of a semi-dressed female in his backyard. She appears to have been stabbed with a screwdriver.
Before he calls the police, Steve can’t resist the urge to take a photo of the beautiful corpse on his phone.
The police turn up and are highly dissatisfied with the responses that Steve gives them regarding his discovery of the murdered woman. Who is she and why is she in Steve’s backyard? He has no answers for them. He doesn’t know her and he doesn’t know why she ended up murdered in his garden.
It transpires that the mysterious woman is Diane (Carlee Avers), a talented, beautiful and married singer who sometimes gave performances in the local theatre. Now the prime suspect, Steve is scrutinized by the police, accosted by Diane’s widower, and harassed by his suspicious deadbeat neighbours.
Steve maintains that he is innocent of any crime, but he develops a fascination with the photo of Diane’s body that he has kept on his phone. To add to his troubles, the ghost of Diane begins to haunt his dreams and he soon feels her presence in his house, angrily accusing him of not ‘keeping his promise’.
Confused but resilient, Steve finds that the haunting begins to unravel the mystery that surrounds his relationship to Diane which in turn, leads him to come to terms with some startling revelations.
Mongillo, whose previous films range from the youth-horror film The Wind, to the sci-fi drama Welcome to Earth, to the mock-doc satire Being Michael Masden, scripted his new film Diane from a story by Matt Giannini. His screenplay seems to be a rather leisurely examination of one way an emotionally damaged person might come to terms with his own sense of responsibility.
The cast, headed by Jason Alan Smith, Carlee Avers, Margaret Rose Champagne and Dick Boland, acquit themselves well, and since the plot of the film unfolds rather slowly, it really falls to their investment in their characters to keep up our interest in the storyline.
Personally, I found the basic premise, ultimately fully revealed in the denouement, a little simplistic and difficult to believe, but perhaps I would have to give some leeway and accept that the symptoms that may accompany PTSD are various and manifold.
As director Mongillo explained to Fangoria, "Diane is informed by…my favorite thrillers and horror movies in one way or another, but when writing and directing it, I never found myself pulling from cinematic influences…for me, the goal, in addition to producing something entertaining, is to create honest work about the human condition."
Don’t expect to be shocked or scared by Diane, it’s not that kind of film - it’s more about being haunted by the desire for oblivion. One might at least give credit to Mongillo for taking the notion of ‘ghosts’ in a different direction, as here they’re mostly found in a damaged psyche. The result is however, is neither frightening nor particularly affecting.