Studio: BH Tilt
Director: Dennis Iliadis
Writer: Adam Alleca
Producer: Jason Blum, Graham King, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Davisson
Stars: Topher Grace, Patricia Clarkson, Callan Mulvey, Genesis Rodriguez, Robin Thomas Grossman
A mentally disturbed man with a troubled past questions his sanity while uncovering a mystery in his father’s empty mansion.
I originally wrote an overlong introduction outlining how Blumhouse uses its BH Tilt banner to segregate certain titles at arm’s length. Then I came to my senses by realizing I can impart the same idea simply with the following two sentences.
There’s a reason why Blumhouse movies are labeled “From the Producer of ‘The Purge,’ Insidious,’ and ‘Get Out’” instead of “From the Producer of ‘Visions,’ ‘Mercy,’ and ‘Totem’.” For anyone familiar with the quality canyon between those two sets of titles, I don’t have to explain what that reason is.
Similarly, I probably don’t need to do more to describe “Delirium” other than to point out that it belongs in that latter class of films. Like every other disposable DTV’er dumped into the BH Tilt black hole, “Delirium” is a functionally formulaic fright flick. If you know its peers like “Family Blood” (review here) or “Stephanie” (review here), you know that formula. Put a small handful of actors, preferably at least two of whom are generally recognizable, in a single location for ten days on a low budget and voila, you have a turn-and-burn thriller with a high ROI for producers, yet a low satisfaction level for consumers.
Consistent with that formula, “Delirium” stretches a standard suspense seed into a feature-length premise. In this case, it’s the “Psycho II” chestnut of a mentally disturbed man flinching at visions while alone in a seemingly haunted house. Is something strange afoot or is the insidiousness all in his head?
Of course, something strange is always afoot. It’s never just in the man’s mind. So the real question is, will the twist involve someone having actually been dead the entire time, an imaginary companion, split personalities, or some other blurred line of fantasy and reality? Better yet, will “Delirium” inspire anyone to stay interested until the reveal takes place? A desire to avoid spoilers prevents me from answering the first question. I can answer the second one with a confident “no.”
Played with minimal engagement by a Topher Grace who knows he is stuck in VOD slums, Tom Walker was just released from an asylum after being institutionalized as a teen. Oddly, Tom’s father committed suicide a few days ago, leaving Tom alone in a family mansion haunted by memories initially unclear to the audience.
Keeping an occasional eye on Tom is Brody, a parole officer who would be entirely indistinct if not for the casting of Patricia Clarkson. Once again, this is in keeping with the movie’s distraction strategies. Cast an actor whose inherent appeal and experience present an illusion of characterization without requiring a slim script to do any of its own legwork.
Tom gets settled in a typical montage of music, laundry bin basketball, and solo scooter races down a hallway. “What a likably regular guy,” the audience is meant to think. Did I mention Tom keeps a calendar where he crosses off days left in his probation and talks/reacts to himself to make sure we understand exposition?
Manufactured cuteness goes into overload mode with the introduction of Lynn (Crom help me, I had to look up her name). The market employee who delivers groceries due to Tom’s house arrest, Lynn is so improbably attractive and conveniently interested in Tom that I thought for certain she would turn out to be a figment of his imagination or some clandestine conspirator. Nope. She’s just a contrivance concocted to force a flatlined love interest into the mix in the most awkwardly obvious manner possible. A scene of Lynn and Tom giggling at the supposed silliness of two adults drinking juice boxes can make even the most tolerant rom-com aficionado barf up breakfast.
Bland flavoring dominates much of “Delirium’s” menu. I don’t mind a seen-before setup such as a masked maniac in the woods, demonic possession, monstrous mutation, or what have you. But at least be inventive, energetic, or A+ in execution. “Delirium” settles for merely being basic across the board.
Production design establishes a wrecked room by tilting a painting and tossing papers on the floor. Scares come from audio stings accompanying cuts like an ominous image reflected in a mirror or sudden grab of a limb. Tom’s journey to uncover the secret behind the hallucinations haunting either house or head hits rote notes on both sides of the lens, making for mediocrity that isn’t memorable as a mystery or as a movie.
Although still not a flattering one, the best compliment I can throw at “Delirium” is that it has no pretense about its pat purpose. It intends to be average from beginning to end and kicks that low bar only as much as required. “Blumhouse” continues to be a sometimes miss but mostly hit label that can be counted on for admirable experimentation at its worst and knockout entertainment at its best. Yinning that yang is “BH Tilt’s” growing reputation for being a bin for the company’s throwaways. “Delirium” puts another nondescript notch on that bedpost of being good for turning a modest profit, but bad for association with the brand.
Review Score: 30