JUNE 18, 2013
I may be burned out on the "found footage" concept in general, but that's only because so many movies have done it wrong, and thus giving me a slight knee-jerk reaction to any such title that I stumble upon as of late. But IF they're done right, I can be won over, and thankfully Delivery (which premiered tonight at the LA Film Festival) mostly nails the approach, allowing me to forgive some of its missteps. Hell even if they got it totally wrong, the fact that it's not about a team of paranormal investigators automatically makes me like it more than the last 5-6 that I've suffered through.
To be clear, it's not a traditional found footage movie - our heroes Kyle and Rachel are actually starring in a reality show that depicts the ups and downs of their first pregnancy. To sell this idea, after a prologue that tells us that the mother is now dead and that this is something that happened in 2009, we are treated the the pilot episode of "Delivery", and director Brian Netto totally nails the tone/editing/style of a terrible TLC reality show. The constant establishing shots, the fly on the wall "personal moments" that are bookended by talking head interviews, cheesy music... it's all there, and you could easily strip out the occasional interruption of the horror angle and put it on one of those channels without anyone being aware that it was staged (well, more staged than an actual reality show, I mean).
Towards the end of the "pilot", Rachel suffers what seems like a miscarriage; she's bleeding and the doctors are unable to find a heartbeat. Faced with the choice of letting the miscarriage "run its course" or undergoing a procedure to remove it, they opt for the former - only for the fetus to suddenly come back to life the following morning. Everything points to it being a miracle, but then strange things begin to occur - the dog begins growling in Rachel's presence, and the cameras that are capturing their every move suddenly experience glitches whenever she is in their view. These audio/video glitches get mighty annoying as the film goes on and they occur more frequently - toward the end of her pregnancy I swear we hear the ZZZT! of a distorted audio track between every cut. Netta would have been wise to restrain himself with these things - at first they're actually good for a cheap scare, but they just get obnoxious and mildly headache inducing as the movie goes on, which is a big problem.
See, after the "pilot" ends, there's a lot of filler as we get to the night of the baby's birth (the obvious conclusion), and the attempts to mix things up a bit (like when a priest is brought in to bless the house) will mostly just remind viewers of Paranormal Activity. As it is, the couple is very similar to Katie and Micah, so anything else that might trigger some deja vu is unfortunate, and thus adding in a recurring irritant hurts the movie some - you might start wanting the movie to just get on with it. Some might also balk (spoiler!) that the supernatural element is never really explained - I personally didn't mind (better no explanation that a potentially stupid one that the movie can't recover from), but it's strange that they almost seem to be trying to suggest Rachel is just experiencing something psychological the whole time, but with the glitches and a few other "demonic" moments there's no question that it's something actually wrong with her pregnancy.
Otherwise, it works pretty damn well, and I'm super relieved that I didn't bring my wife along. I'm more excited about having kids than she is as it is (can you blame her? Look at me. She'll have to carry around another one that'll look like me for the better part of a year), and this probably would have scared her right off for good. The miscarriage stuff (which is gut-wrenching; it's the rare reality/mockumentary horror where I actually cared about the characters) is brutal by itself, but then you add in the "oh and your baby might be a demon or something and it'll make you break mirrors and stab the family dog and such" element? The movie should have a warning label for pregnant women - the physical harm of a roller coaster wouldn't match the psychological harm of seeing this stuff play out when you got your own bun in the oven. Even a movie like Rosemary's Baby (a superior film, don't get me wrong) doesn't get into the nitty-gritty of a pregnancy (Mia had too many other things to worry about, really) like this does, and playing on those fears and worries helps the movie clear the hurdle of all horror movies of this type: the "nothing is happening" factor. Kyle gets increasingly frustrated with the camera crew and they start to bicker a lot, but apart from the occasional freak out moment, we know that the movie will be action-lite until the very end. So toss in some real world problems (and avoid too many Rosemary flashbacks by glossing over whatever devilish element might be in play) and viola! The rare found footage horror that rarely bores.
Being that this was the movie's premiere at a festival, I doubt anyone will be able to see it for a while (though if you're in LA - it's playing again on Friday!), but since I've slowed down maybe this review will still be on the front page by the time we hear about distribution. But if not I'll remind you when it does - it's not a perfect film, but it's a step in the right direction for the found footage sub-genre, and I want to champion the films that apply that aesthetic to something besides Paranormal Activity sequels or a bunch of assholes poking around an abandoned building.
What say you?