Delivery: The Beast Within (2013)
Editor’s Note: Delivery: The Beast Within is now open in limited release and on VOD
If the recent TV remake of Rosemary’s Baby didn’t quite whet appetites for fresh new takes on taking the antichrist to term, its almost unanimous dismissal evidenced at least the demand for distinction in how storytellers approach familiar material. Enter Delivery: The Beast Within, which might easily have been pitched as “Rosemary on Reality TV”: this new movie from debut director Brian Netto might not meet the heights of Polanski’s iconic classic—few films do—but its integration of outmoded horror tropes with MTV-style verité exploitation aesthetic allows for a refreshing renovation. Like the (fictional) producer who doth protest too much that his recording of the increasingly eerie events herein were never for ratings’ sake, those behind Delivery know well the niche value of footage like this.
…the movie’s opening twenty minutes, presented as the unaired pilot of said producer’s ill-fated new series, are a terrific marriage of sly spoof and ironic if laboured—do pardon the pun—scene-setting.
Had they only the skill to carry it off; the movie’s opening twenty minutes, presented as the unaired pilot of said producer’s ill-fated new series, are a terrific marriage of sly spoof and ironic if laboured—do pardon the pun—scene-setting. You can almost hear the creaks as the delighted expecting grandmother shrieks “God is good!”, the screen near-blackened by the force of her foreshadowing. For the movie as much as the pregnancy it’s the first sign of trouble to come: if Netto’s novel approach soars on the strength of its aesthetic emulation of this kind of TV—understanding the deceptive direction rendering the “reality” it desires—it sinks in striving to meet that media savvy with horror’s visceral veracity once the sinister aspects come into play.
The draw of Delivery, at the most basic level, is its ingenious invention of an all-too-elusive found footage rationale that really works. Imagine the Albert Brooks of Real Life given scent of a supernatural story: when the proverbial hits the pregnancy’s fan, this seedy showrunner has every excuse to exploit the situation for a series to remember—and the movie’s makers for a film to boot. That they largely abandon the camera crew for the happy couple’s behind-the-scenes videocam, then, is not just a nonsensical scripting choice but a disappointing dismissal too of true potential in favour of a slamming-door-and-static-interference approach ill-distinct from a hundred other films to follow in the wake of Paranormal Activity.
It’s a facile film we arrive at after the teasing promise of the start, one that seems set on skirting all potential interesting avenues.
What we’re left with, after an opening reel to excite even the most cynical veteran of the found footage revival, is a wealth of wearying jump scares and amateur actor hysterics, devoid of dramatic weight and tediously dependant on those same sorry tropes it looked set to refresh. Netto hasn’t half the success with an eerie atmosphere as he has in the superficiality of the erstwhile aesthetic, and his script—co-written with Adam Schindler—foregoes a homogeneous horror in favour of a see-what-sticks approach by which the demon-baby-to-be, we can only assume, has a poltergeist pal. It’s a facile film we arrive at after the teasing promise of the start, one that seems set on skirting all potential interesting avenues.
Lead Laurel Vail, at least, commits commendably to a role that requires of her at times an awful lot of silly stuff: sitting on the floor swinging her head or shrieking for fear of what’s to come, she gives to the movie more than it deserves. Danny Barclay fares less well as the father-in-waiting, whose role is relegated primarily to cagey confessionals strained enough even before he delivers them. As producer Rick, in an interview offering an ostensible framing structure to the film, Rob Cobuzio’s adamant “integrity” gives the movie’s sole satisfactory strand. That it’s a remnant of the reality angle is of course no coincidence: Delivery has the seed of a horror classic; what a shame it can’t quite carry it to term.
Delivery: The Beast Within has the seed of a horror classic; what a shame it can’t quite carry it to term.