Another week brings us another release from Blumhouse Productions or, more specifically, their micro-distribution brand, Blumhouse Tilt. This latest direct-to-streaming release, Delirium, has some recognizable names attached to it. That 70’s Show alum Topher Grace stars and Dennis Iliadis, who helmed The Last House on the Left remake, directs. One of the film’s producers also happens to be Leonardo DiCaprio. Now available on Netflix, this ghostly film looks to offer fans a cross between The Woman in Black and …well, just about every other haunted house movie you’ve probably ever seen. Few reviews are up on Rotten Tomatoes, but what’s there doesn’t bode well for this supernatural thriller.
Topher Grace plays Tom, a young man recently released from a forensic psychiatric facility for a crime committed in his teens. Under house arrest for the first 30 days of his release, Tom returns to the family mansion left to him by his recently deceased father. Alone and unable to leave the house, Tom begins hearing sounds and seeing horrific visions. He discovers secret passages in the walls. When visions of his imprisoned brother begins to appear, Tom must confront whether he is being haunted or succumbing to madness.
Delirium a Competent, Completely Familiar Scares
Delirium is nothing if not a competently made thriller. Specifically, director Dennis Iliadis dutifully checks off all the requisite subgenre boxes. Everything about the production quality is quite good. From sound design to cinematography, Delirium exceeds most VOD horror movies. Still everything about Delirium feels familiar, like a no-name brand copy of much better haunted house movies.
Like too many horror movies, loud sounds substitute for more visceral scares.
Tom’s visions and the ‘bumps in the night’ begin almost immediately. Shadowy figures creep up from behind and decaying images of the dead father periodically pop up. To his credit, Illiadis films these scenes with a predictable but workmanlike quality. While a few jump scares work, most of the engineered thrills are predictable. Like too many horror movies, loud sounds substitute for more visceral scares. Much of Delirium serves to remind you of better movies including, but not limited to Sinister and The Woman in Black. Not much in the way of atmosphere or tension is present. In addition, Delirium has an almost omnipresent music score that is so generic it was probably included with iMovie.
A Promising Story Let Down by Implausible Story Twists
Adam Alleca’s screenplay does the best it can with its familiar material. Specifically, Delirium initially gives little information about Tom, wisely opting to drop clues as the story unfolds. And Tom’s psychotic breaks raise doubts about what you see and are told. For the first half of the movie, you question what is real and what is imaginary. Yet experienced horror fans will piece things together pretty quickly. As hard as the screenplay tries, Delirium doesn’t offer much in the way of innovation or fresh ideas. Occasionally, Alleca throws a curveball but these swerves often don’t feel right.
Adam Alleca’s screenplay does the best it can with its familiar material.
Any potential Delirium has to rise above its mediocre trappings is completely undone by its third act. Predictable isn’t always bad if the movie executes the expected plot points. But Alleca opts to go left instead of right with the story. While you can appreciate the ambition, it doesn’t work in this case. All of the ‘haunting’ elements and ambiguity emerging from Tom’s mental illness are abandoned for increasingly implausible, if not outright ridiculous, developments. Everything about the film’s conclusion feels unsatisfying.
Topher Grace Could Build a Career as the Next Anthony Perkins
At one point Topher Grace appeared to be destined for great things. Then Spider-Man 3 happened. To be fair, Topher was hardly to blame for that sequel’s failure. He was miscast in a role shoehorned into a busy film. In Delirium Grace acquits himself quite well. Arguably, he’s the best part of the movie. Maybe Grace can even carve out a niche for himself in horror. Certainly, he brings a nervous energy to his characterization of Tom reminescent of Anthony Perkins.
…Grace acquits himself quite well, and is arguably the best part of the movie.
As for the rest of the small cast, everyone is fine, if not forgettable. Keep in mind, Alleca’s screenplay doesn’t give anyone a lot with which to work. As Tom’s parole officer, Delirium largely wastes Patricia Clarkson in an oddly written role. Her character seems all over the place and, with no character arc, it’s hard to reconcile her behaviours. This turns out to be a problem for the movie’s other two characters – Lynn (Genesis Rodriguez) and Alex (Callan Mulvey). It’s not the performances that are problematic; the characters are poorly written, behaving in ways designed to advance the story and its twists rather than reflect natural character motives.
Delirium A Perfectly Fine, Generic Time-Waster
Delirium is far from being a bad movie. In fact, it’s first half is just guilty of being utterly familiar and generic. That’s not to say it does not have its moments. As the movie progresses, it twists and goes in a direction that may not be entirely surprising. Certainly, it’s ending isn’t likely to emotionally satisfying. Yet horror fans looking to pass some time on a rainy afternoon may find Delirium to be a perfectly fine time-waster. If there is a big takeaway from Delirium, it’s Topher Grace’s performance. That is, Grace passes off an Anthony Perkins-vibe that might work well for him in future horror roles.
THE PROFESSOR’S FINAL GRADE: C+