Director: Brian Netto
Starring: Laurel Vail and Danny Barclay
Delivery is another entry into the seemingly never-ending found-footage sub genre that is showing no signs of letting up, with Paranormal Activity 5 and a spin-off The Marked Ones arriving next year alongside many others attempting to cash in on the easy-scare capabilities and relative cheapness of the form. I’m not quite sure why a first-time director would choose a found-footage film to launch their career (other than it being cheap and easily marketed) as the medium doesn’t really allow for any great showcasing of skills, largely relying on shaky-cam or static surveillance cameras but that is another rant for another time.
Delivery opens with the announcement that first-time parents to be Kyle and Rachel Massy had agreed to take part in an MTV-style programme to chronicle their journey to parenthood – something the pair have struggled with. As with most found-footage films before it, it also foregrounds that all was not well with the production and this is displayed through news footage and also interviews with the show’s producer and the Massy’s families, including one important fact – Rachel’s body was removed from the house on October 20th 2009.
During a Q&A with the director Brian Netto immediately following the screening he explained that he had been writing the film before the first Paranormal Activity came out so it is fairly likely that there have been some development problems for it to have taken so long to make it to the screen. Unfortunately, the release comes at a time where found-footage is used so often it has lost a lot of its initial punch and the buzz that surrounded early screenings of Paranormal Activity. The same tropes are employed here as in every other found-footage film with nothing new or different to offer aside from the show that makes up the first act, shot in an ultra glossy, fast paced MTV style, complete with emotionally manipulative musical cues as Rachel’s pregnancy progresses. Of course, this is totally at odds with the usual, dark setting of horrors and makes for a nice change. It is a shame really, that this style is abandoned for the rough-cut footage that comes later, although it is incredibly difficult to imagine how it could have been sustained as the subject matter becomes more intense and dark.
It does serve a purpose in positioning Kyle and Rachel as a likeable enough couple, both played well by Vail and Barclay. Vail in particular has the most to do as Rachel’s pregnancy begins to inspire sinister paintings and sleepwalking and her performance is convincing, as is Barclay’s as the increasingly suffering and protective Kyle, who is angered by the intrusion. However, my problem is that there is very little ambiguity surrounding whether Rachel is suffering from a mental illness or there is a demon involved, although this is mainly down to the writing not allowing for there to be any real doubt. The unfortunate-looking demon is revealed via an illustration with a small explanation of his purpose, although this fails to explain his presence amongst the Massy’s. A small side-plot rumbles on throughout the film whereby the interviewer repeatedly questions the producer about his intentions in keeping the filming going, even when Kyle wanted to remove the cameras and how much he was motivated by potential profits and infamy but never really goes anywhere apart from a few harsh words between the two. Indeed, given the subject matter the in-universe reasoning for the editing together of unaired footage from the incident would indeed be exploitative, so it isn’t hard to see where the interviewer is coming from.
Now, something about the film really annoyed me, far more than it just being a generic found-footage film was the constant camera interference in the latter part of the film, cutting out during dialogue and then restarting loudly with a hiss. I have no idea how many times this happened, but I know it grated on me every time as loud isn’t scary and I found it constantly broke me out of watching what was happening on screen. It isn’t scary in Paranormal Activity where seemingly hours of inactivity and crushing boredom pass before something goes ‘BANG’ and it isn’t in this either. Also, can we stop the inclusion of animals whose sole purpose is to be brutally killed? Seriously, every single time I see an animal in one of these films it may as well have a flashing siren on its head indicating its impending doom.
However, I suppose I say this as someone who is definitely not a fan of found-footage and its conventions. I’m sure that people who aren’t burnt out by the found-footage phenomena and just want something easy to follow will enjoy this – it certainly received a good reception during the Q&A from some and I would imagine would be a prime candidate for a possible sequel down the line, or maybe even a franchise thanks to a message at the end of the film. Overall, I can’t really find anything in this to hate (irritating camera cut-outs aside) because it isn’t doing anything more than following a set of codes and conventions set out by multiple films before it but it did leave me with a feeling that I’d seen it all before.