If you ever wanted a hybrid of Rosemary’s Baby, Paranormal Activity and Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Brian Netto’s very strange yet rewarding horror film Delivery should satisfy this odd request. After failing to conceive time and again, married couple Kyle and Rachel Massy (Danny Barclay and Laurel Vail) finally strike gold and agree to document the pregnancy cycle for a reality television show called “Delivery.” However, abnormal occurrences — supernatural in origin it seems — throughout the nine-month cycle shift not only the dynamic of the show, but also the relationship between Kyle and Rachel. Rachel, convinced that some ancient, evil spirit named “Alastor” has possessed her and her unborn child, slowly descends into madness but is viewed as simply hormonal by her skeptical husband. Employing found-footage and old-school horror tactics (quick, jarring cuts to mangled video feed that sonically agonize), Delivery certainly gets a scare out of its audience but doesn’t satirize the reality television genre to the extent that its first few scenes promise to do.
What gets us through some of the silly antics and cliché horror hijinks of Delivery are the actors. Part of what makes Paranormal Activity such an incredulous viewing experience is that its two leads are visibly untrained in the art of acting. Their reactions seem forced and disingenuous, which then saturates the entire film with a falseness that is nearly impossible to wipe clean. Danny Barclay, Laurel Vail, and Rob Cobuzio (who plays the producer of the show that recites the dark events as he remembers them) commit so heavily to their roles that you truly feel as though you’re watching an actual late-night special relaying the story behind this chronicled tragedy.
The setup of Delivery is as previously described: I, the viewer, am an identified member of the faux-television audience who is watching a TV documentary/behind-the-scenes special detailing the horrific story of the Massys during the filming of “Delivery.” If this sounds very “meta” to you, that’s because it is. Netto’s three-layer framework evolves the horror genre by making it one that can function interactively. Don’t worry, your audiovisual sensibilities aren’t ignored; they are merely enhanced by your deep involvement with this twisted tragedy. While the production values are minimally impressive at best, kudos to Netto for never resorting to cheap gimmicks as a means of inciting fear. Delivery’s narrative progresses disturbingly downward at a shockingly strong pace, culminating in a gruesome ending that, while majorly predictable, still delivers the shrieks of terror and surprise it sought to elicit.
In sum, Brian Netto’s Delivery is a richly involving experimental horror film with more successful trials than problematic tribulations. While it could use some context (why is this demon specifically targeting Rachel?) to provide a clearer sense of narrative purpose, such minor gripes aren’t enough to slide my review into the red zone. Brian Netto’s movie is a part of “The Beyond” program at this year’s Los Angeles Film Festival. Be sure to check out the trailer below.