Studio: Salient Media
Director: Brian Netto
Writer: Brian Netto, Adam Schindler
Producer: Adam Schindler
Stars: Laurel Vail, Danny Barclay, Rob Cobuzio, Rebecca Brooks, Consuelo Bingham Mira, Peter McGlynn, Elizabeth Sandy, Colter Allison, Lance Buckner, David Alan Graf
A reality show chronicling the birth of a young couple’s first child turns tragic when something goes inexplicably wrong with the pregnancy.
Describing “Delivery: The Beast Within” as a “found footage” version of “Rosemary’s Baby” (review here) would be the simplest way to put it, except that is how I previously trivialized “Devil’s Due” (review here), “Delivery” had its wide release after “Devil’s Due” debuted in early 2014, although “Delivery” actually made the festival rounds in late 2013. Indeed, both are “found footage” films about demonic pregnancies, but “Delivery” is far superior in every way possible and is stunning in its own right no matter how redundant the premise might be.
Kyle and Rachel Massy are so prototypically cute as a whitebread young couple that their inoffensive average-ness and contemporary yuppie lifestyles make them ideal candidates for a reality TV series. “Delivery,” the show within the movie, chronicles the Massys’ regular life struggles as they experience their first pregnancy with cameras capturing every step along the path to parenthood.
The first 20 minutes of “Delivery” are a pitch-perfect recreation of every in one ear and right out the other reality show that ever aired on cable television. Faux credits, closed captioning and TV-G ratings icons, and a saccharin sweet soundtrack ripped right from a Summer’s Eve commercial tick all the typical hallmarks. It is an effectively disarming way to massage the mind for vapid TV-style entertainment, which makes the impending tonal shift come across as that much more intense.
As soon as the movie starts, title cards explain that the show never made it to air, with the chief reason being that Rachel Massy died. Other “found footage” flicks start the same way and end up killing any legitimate shot at tension by giving away their endings in the first 30 seconds. Yet instead of taking away suspense by revealing its outcome ahead of time, “Delivery” gives itself an improved storytelling frame that allows the talking heads to recount Rachel’s tale as a somber and solemn retrospective. The interview segments carry a sobering chill of eeriness that wouldn’t be possible in a linear narrative.
Things go nipples up in short order, of course. Rachel suffers what appears to be a heartbreaking miscarriage until a second ultrasound the following morning strangely reveals a renewed pulse beat. The unexpected turnaround initially serves as a happy ending for episode one, even though the real story is only just beginning.
“Delivery” then switches into a pseudo-documentary told through raw video culled from unassembled episodes. Director Brian Netto sandwiches in a message clarifying that the footage “has been edited solely for the purposes of this film.” Finally, a “found footage” movie tells it like it is and dispenses with any foolish pretense of being recovered crime scene tape or what have you. For once, no one has to question something like why in the world police evidence would edit in scenes of teeth brushing or mundane exposition.
Helping to sell the authenticity is very smart camera placement and staging. There are times when Kyle is speaking to a doctor, for example, and the camera shoots the scene from far away, adding subtitles to clarify the slightly muffled voices. This isn’t to hint at any nefarious motives in their conversation, but rather comes from the camera being realistically out of position. The camera is also denied access to events and areas like a hospital emergency room. The mind never has to question how serendipitously every major moment is captured and framed perfectly, because such moments don’t exist. “Delivery” keeps its coverage grounded with a credible reality TV look.
Netto drops more than enough not-so-subtle clues about where “Delivery” is obviously headed. A mention is made that Kyle is not Catholic, a conspicuous close-up of a cross on Rachel’s rear view mirror is shown, and there is also a brief glimpse of Kyle dressed as horned devil on Halloween.
Subtlety then goes completely out the window when the script makes sure to include every beat that has ever previously appeared in a similarly themed movie. A dog barks and growls at Rachel’s baby bump. A devout old Catholic woman mutters hysterically in a foreign language. Rachel develops a craving for raw meat. Yes, it is all clichéd, but “Delivery” presents everything so realistically and with such convincing actors that the tropes seem vital to the story rather than derivatively exploitive. If one really wants to defend their usage, it can even be argued that horror movies have conditioned audiences to presume this is what would happen if someone were pregnant with a demon. In all likelihood, excluding such contrivances would probably end up drawing more undue attention.
Superb performances greatly enhance the feeling of authenticity. Laurel Vail is incredibly believable as the troubled young mother. She and Danny Barclay as her husband carry the crux of the screentime, but Rob Cobuzio is not to be overlooked as a hugely convincing TV producer. If the credits said that Peter McGlynn really was an OB/GYN and that Lance Buckner was a professional paranormal researcher, I would believe it. The documentary-style interludes are just that good.
As gripping as the movie is, “Delivery” does run out of (other people’s) ideas around act three and starts losing steam. With a 75-minute runtime instead of 90, there would have been less redundancy in the meandering that takes place during the final month of Rachel’s pregnancy. It becomes too ridiculous that Kyle still resists the idea of something paranormal being afoot despite everything that has happened, and the gradual buildup stalls on a plateau while the plot works out a resolution.
If the “why” behind the story matters to them, some viewers will also be turned off that “Delivery” never explains the evil in Rachel’s belly. And while some scares work as frightening moments, they don’t always add up as sensible plot points.
But the production is so smartly designed with terrifying entertainment as its primary goal that the secondary one of being rationally satisfying wanes into unimportance. Unsettling music, astounding atmosphere, and a shocking final shot bring everything together in a way that what doesn’t work seems irrelevant. The terror that is harnessed onscreen should ensure that this is the last “found footage” demonic pregnancy feature the genre will ever need, as it is difficult to conceive of someone crafting a better one than “Delivery: The Beast Within.”
Review Score: 90