“Not every child is a blessing,” warns the tagline for Brian Netto’s film debut, Delivery. While meant to be eerie in relation to the subject here, everyone is more than likely aware of the bitter but truthful sentiment it really is, as Netto’s (familiar) exploration of the supposedly celestial joys of parenthood are delightfully skewered with this genre blend of found footage and pregnancy horror. In fact, it’s a seamless transition Netto uses, stapling the low brow film subgenre with low brow pop TV techniques to create a pulpy and sometimes fascinating creature as slickly and manipulatively edited as well as all the material it’s aping.
A happily married couple living in 2009 North Hollywood, Rachel and Kyle Massey (Laura Vail and Danny Barclay) have had some difficulties on the well-worn road of procreation, but their predicament and Rachel’s recent pregnancy has landed them a pilot for a new reality television series called Delivery, where the couple will let themselves be filmed through the whole nine months of Rachel’s pregnancy. Rachel’s weirdo Catholic mom Barbara (Rebecca Brooks) isn’t quite sure Kyle is ready for fatherhood, and they all interact in generally predictable fashion until it seems Rachel suddenly miscarries again.
The baby’s heart undetected, Rachel stays the night in the hospital…and wakes up feeling the baby’s heart beating again. She even felt a presence in the room with her that she thinks was the spirit of her dead dad. How sweet. But obviously, it was probably something else in the room, for, as times goes by, Rachel begins to change. First, the couple’s dog is no longer friendly with Rachel, even clawing at her rotund belly. Rachel’s paintings becomes darker, and producer Rick (Rob Cabuzio) begins to inform them of the terrifying noises that they’ve picked up from Rachel’s microphone…plus images of her are often pixilated or distorted. Kyle refuses to believe something paranormal is going on, but it’s obvious something is very wrong with Rachel. Soon, her due date is here, and her water isn’t the only thing that’s about to break loose.
Delivery will obviously remind all that see it of something like Paranormal Activity spliced with Rosemary’s Baby (or perhaps something like The Astronaut’s Wife if Rosemary is too lofty a comparison). Luckily, Netto and screenwriter Adam Schindler understand something about pacing and the formulation of some enjoyable, foreboding tension, mustering up plenty despite our hyper familiarity with the style and subject matter. At its worst, of course, Rachel and Kyle annoyingly live in a twin existence to ours, where they obviously haven’t seen a multitude of found footage movies like Paranormal Activity, because otherwise they would know better after finding their house broken into, ignorantly concluding that some hooligan decided to terrorize them with pentagrams. Likewise, the Catholic motif and even the meager religious references used here are a little tired for ye good ole non-believers out there.
But the existence of otherwise rational people doing stupid things seldom interferes with the nightmare developing in front of us. Like those hopelessly plagued sisters from that aforementioned found footage series, Rachel is of that milquetoast cookie cutter ilk whose dull problems reek of privileged world whiteness. Despite the awkward intertitles that section the film, which gleefully announce Rachel’s fate, kudos to first time cinematographer Andy Bates for making the film’s painfully corny first half look just like an episode of any number of current reality assisted television programs. The only trouble with this is that Delivery often feels like a high-end television film because of it.
Some nifty sound design tricks bring on some excellent chills, and the slick editing makes up for the healthy dose of clichés that rack up towards the finale. The use of blood and gore is infrequent, but when fluids make an appearance, they do make an impact, including on a creepy mannequin named Marlene. One of the film’s stronger assets are the performances of Vail and Barclay, who always manage to seem quite believable in their surreal predicament, with Vail managing to make her dull character quite engaging, reminiscent of Melanie Lynskey or Winona Ryder, depending on whether she’s acting sweet or crazy. For those balking at the prospect of another found footage item, Netto manages to stay on the bearable side of the gimmick, and Delivery is well worth a look for doing something entertaining with this sturdy entry in hetero horror.
Reviewed on June 18 at the 2013 Los Angeles Film Festival – The Beyond Program