New Video // 2007 // 86 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard (Retired) // November 12th, 2010
"How else d'you explain someone getting their eye poked out with a pool cue?"
Combining elements of The Craft with the anime Death Note, Devil's Diary is a Canadian TV movie with grand ambitions.
Opening during a late night visit to a graveyard, Devil's Diary sees friends Ursula (Magda Apanowicz) and Dominique (Alexz Johnson) find a mysterious book at a graveside, which Ursula takes home. Containing no writing at all, Ursula decides to use the book as a diary, into which she vents her spleen about the injustices of being the punch-bag for the cool kids at school. In one hate filled diatribe, Ursula writes how she hopes Heather (Miriam McDonald) -- the school's head cheerleader -- breaks both her legs. The following day, during recess, a car careers out of control and slams into Heather, breaking both her legs just as Ursula had wished.
Immediately Ursula realizes what she has done, but rather than regretting her actions, becomes addicted to the power granted to her by the book and begins taking out the school's jocks and cheerleaders. Best friend Dominique, disturbed by the unfolding events, seeks the help of a priest (Brian Krause). But Ursula's power is short lived, as others learn of the books power and seek it for their own gain. Before long, the book finds its way into the hands of other, even more troubled minds and all hell breaks loose.
Director Farhad Mann ensures Devil's Diary moves along at a brisk pace, meaning that the viewer is never given too long to reflect on the thin plot and often risible acting. Despite being a made for TV movie, the film is shot with a reasonable degree of skill that belies its humble origins. Clearly the film has a meager budget, and so excessive gore and visual effects are a non-starter, but, by employing a little ingenuity, we still get eyes poked out with pool cues, projectile vomiting and more.
Writer John Benjamin Martin's screenplay never really explodes into life, but still takes some interesting turns. The corrupting power of the diary is dealt with quite well, especially with regard to its influence on Ursula who is blinded to the evil acts she commits. Likewise, the desires of the cool kids to posses the book, and screw each other over just as quickly as trample on the school geeks, offers a realistic reflection on the power struggles that go on in most high schools. Less successful though, is the plot thread that sees Dominique seek the help of two priests. It's never really explained why someone who clearly states they are not religious would go running to the church the first time something strange happens. It's also suspect how a local priest is so knowledgeable about the diary. Still, the bombastic dialogue and "meaningful" stares make the scenes strangely enjoyable, in a cheese-ball kinda way.
If all that has you thinking Devil's Diary is worth a punt, I'm afraid it's time for a reality check. Despite a premise that is full of potential, Devil's Diary is lacking in tension and never gets under your skin. Whereas the anime Death Note really explored the characters who came into contact with the book, and made for riveting viewing, Devil's Diary doesn't go far enough. The setup has such promise, and yet seems happy to settle for clichéd characters who are too dumb, or petty, to really exploit the power of the book. It becomes tedious watching one vacuous bimbo after another get their hands on the book, only to increase their standing in the school's hierarchy; have these people no ambition at all? The film really hits a low during a catfight that is neither sexy nor exciting, but is instead poorly executed. By the time the film has reached the midway point it has lost all steam and stumbles towards an unsatisfying conclusion. The final twist, which is telegraphed far too early on, is the final nail in the film's coffin.
The full frame transfer is lacking in fine detail, noisy -- mostly during dark scenes -- and veers towards being soft. The 2.0 soundtrack is a little flat, but overall dialogue is clear enough. There are no extras included on the DVD.
Despite some early promise, and a fun central idea, Devil's Diary is ultimately disappointing. There are a number of plus points, but these are outweighed by the negatives, and though it rises above most made for TV movies, is still not worthy of recommendation and offers little to no replay value.
Review content copyright © 2010 Paul Pritchard; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: New Video
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 86 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Official Site