Release Date: May 30, 2014 (Limited)
Director: Brian Netto
MPAA Rating: NR
[This is a repost of our review from the 2013 Los Angeles Film Festival. Delivery is available on VOD now and in theaters Friday.]
The found footage genre. The genre where the audience is watching “recently discovered” footage about an event or in some cases a mystery. It raised eyebrows and churned stomachs in 1980 with Cannibal Holocaust. It came to prominence with the immensely successful and trend setting 1999 release The Blair Witch Project. It likely reached its zenith with the Paranormal Activity franchise. Primarily a staple in the horror genre the found footage film has met with mostly disastrous results. Chernobyl Diaries, The Amityville Haunting and Apollo 18 are just a few titles that have used the format and all of them were pretty bad films. Now comes Brian Netto, who makes his directorial debut, and his refreshing and mostly effective found footage thriller, Delivery.
Kyle and Rachel Massey are a young, happily married couple who have agreed to allow a reality TV show to document their first pregnancy. The viewing audience will be with them every step of the way. They are a likable couple and you wish them the best. However, we are told that what should have been a feel good piece of TV fluff actually never aired. You may think that it wasn’t aired because it turned out to be bad television. On the contrary, it didn’t air because of the bad that was uncovered during the filming of it. This is the premise of Netto and screenwriter’s Adam Schindler’s take on the found footage genre. It’s a novel and unique perspective that doesn’t deliver jump out of your seat scares per se but digs just deep enough to plant the seeds of unease as events unfold.
A film like this wouldn’t work at all if there was even one bad performance in it. This is supposed to be a reality TV show so it couldn’t feel scripted in any way. Netto relied heavily on his actors’ improvisational skills. The actors delivered. Thanks to them you really care about the people involved in this nightmare and find yourself concerned for their well being. Laura Vail and Danny Barclay are quite good as the Masseys. You get the sense that they are a couple. This bond is strengthened in one scene where we already were aware that they tried to have a child before but miscarried and are faced with the reality it may have happened again. The moment felt very real, very sad as a reality show should and it works. Netto has you invested, you’re hooked. Vail and Barclay do a fine of job of conveying the horror and confusion that unfolds as the film progresses. Rebecca Brooks is effective as Rachel’s devout Catholic mother and Rob Cabuzio is solid as the producer of the failed TV show “Delivery.”
From the cheeky opening credits sequence of the TV show and vibe of the show’s pilot episode to the “unaired” footage, Netto has pieced together a mostly effective entry in the found footage genre. Thanks to the over-saturation of the genre some of the events are pretty much telegraphed due to the familiarity of the subject but that isn’t a severe detriment to the overall film itself. When it does work it is more about atmosphere than it is about getting the audience to jump out of their seats. It harkened back to when the Paranormal franchise was at its best not with the jump scares but with the subtle “oohs” and “ahhs” that can be heard when something creepy just happened. It’s a quality that has since been lost on that perennial franchise. He doesn’t dwell on those moments either. He lets it happen and then moves on to the next one. He continues this trend until the conclusion that is sure to make people scream and/or jump out of their seats. It’s unexpected and is clearly not there for mere shock value, in terms of the story it makes plenty of sense.
Netto has made a solid horror debut and based on this he’s proven himself to be a talent to watch out for. The found footage genre has pretty much been done to death and really it boils down to finding original or at least interesting ways to utilize the format especially for audiences that are savvy to the whole shtick. Utilizing a solid gimmick, very good acting and an understanding of pace and building tension Netto’s Delivery turns out to be an entertaining little horror thriller that is worth a look for horror fans and the found footage lovers for sure.