My first movie for Shocktober was the Roman Polanski classic Rosemary’s Baby, which blended psychological horror with a story about a woman unknowingly pregnant with Satan’s child. Since then, there have been a number of “demon/monster baby movies,” including Demon Seed, David Cronenberg’s The Brood, and a number of B-level direct-to-video flicks that I would have probably passed by on the video store shelves before finding something I actually wanted to watch. It’s now years later and though we have no video stores around here, I find myself doing the same thing whenever I browse Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon–passing by schlocky B-level stuff on the way to whatever I actually want to watch. Besides, how many clones of classic horror or monster movies do we really need?
That thought occurred to me when I first saw the trailer for 2012’s Delivery: The Beast Within (as few horror movies I watch, I love watching horror movie trailers on IMDb … I know, it’s weird). It looked like yet another movie in a long line of tired found footage flicks that promised something horrifying in its trailer but would ultimately be unsatisfying; furthermore, it looked too much like “It’s Paranormal Activity, but she’s pregnant!” Still, a couple of moments in the trailer intrigued me and I quickly found it on Hulu for free … aaaaaand didn’t watch it and then it left Hulu. Luckily, as I went to watch the movies for this month’s blog entries, I remembered Delivery and decided that $3.99 was an okay amount to pay to stream it on Amazon Prime (and before you say “that’s too much,” I must remind you that Blockbuster was charging around that much back in the late 1990s).
The film is a pastiche of three specific genres–the found footage horror film, the mockumentary, and the “demon spawn” horror movie. Laurel Vail and Danny Barclay play Rachel and Kyle Massy, a young couple who are expecting their first child and have decided to allow their pregnancy to be covered as part of a cable reality show called Delivery. When the film opens, the filmmakers are interviewing the show’s creator and producer, Rick (Rob Cobuizo), and we learn right away through some quick local news footage and interviews with other people (friends and doctors who knew Kyle and Rachel) that Rachel is dead and while the pilot episode of Delivery was put together, the show never aired and it’s possible that the key to Rachel’s death lies in what was left over.
The first half hour or so is the abandoned pilot, complete with peppy guitar music and fast-forward traffic footage in the interstitials, where we are introduced to Kyle and Rachel and hear about how they met and got married and how they have been having trouble conceiving and even had a miscarriage but are now finally pregnant. They tell Rachel’s mother Barbara (Rebecca Brooks) and then their friends, but the evening of the baby shower, Kyle finds Rachel in the bathroom of their apartment sobbing and bleeding and upon arrival at the hospital, it appears that she has miscarried again. However, the next morning and another ultrasound reveals a heartbeat and the couple is overjoyed that their baby has, in fact, not been lost.
This, by the way, is where the first odd things start happening. The footage of Rachel in the hospital room when they find out she has not miscarried has some minor glitches, and when they get home, Kyle’s dog Madden begins growling and barking at her. Then, when they hunt for houses, Rachel is accosted by a homeowner’s mother who screams “Devil!” at her in Armenian. She’s rightfully weirded out but things seem to be okay and they buy a house.
There’s a point at which the pilot episode ends and a title card tells us that the rest of the film we’re watching was compiled from the leftover footage of the reality show. Rick, the producer, provides some background information as to how certain moments went down or the increasing technical glitches that were occurring, especially around Rachel, even having a sound guy isolate an otherworldly scream that was recorded in one particular moment. Rachel has trouble sleeping and the artwork that she paints becomes darker and darker, and her marriage to Kyle becomes more and more strained. More and more supernatural-like things start occurring around the house and Rachel becomes fixated on the baby name Alastor, which a paranormal expert (whom she hires) says is the name of a demon.
I honestly don’t want to go very much further with a plot summary because to give more details away would spoil the film’s ending and it’s possible that those who are reading this (both of you) may not have heard of the movie and are actually interested, so I’ll just drop the trailer here and get to my spoiler-free review.
I enjoyed this movie a lot more than I honestly thought I would. I’ve gotten tired of found footage horror movies (as have so many other people), especially those with cheap jump scares and bad payoffs. Delivery: The Beast Within actually doesn’t contain very many jump scares (I think I honestly counted one Paranomral Activity-esque jump scare) and it sticks to its premise really well. If you ever watched TLC during the early 2000s (its Trading Spaces salad years), you may have come across shows such as A Wedding Story and A Baby Story. Those were reality/documentary shows where each episode followed a couple to the altar or the delivery room. It was the latter that writers Brian Netto and Adam Schindler (Netto directed) took and really ran with before giving us a look at the leftover footage, making the “found footage” part of this story plausible (and way more plausible than the “camera that can see ghosts” thing from Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension). Furthermore, as the production becomes increasingly troubled beyond the unaired pilot because of Rachel’s increasingly erratic behavior and Kyle’s increasing rage, the presence of the crew and cameras in themselves become an issue, with the production actually ceasing a couple of months before Rachel’s due date, resuming only with Rick (who says in interviews that he had come to be very close to both Rachel and Kyle) and his camera.
It would seem a little contrived to stage the film this way, going from fake reality show to unused fake reality footage to “third guy in the room” found footage, but Netto actually uses that as a way to make the film feel increasingly claustrophobic and intense until it’s ending, part of which you know is coming but part of which is very unexpected. The footage is staged in ways that feel like your average reality/documentary show, with people out of the range of the camera having what they say subtitled, the occasional shot of a boom mic or crew personnel who would have been edited out of the finished episode, and self-shot “confessional” footage done via Flip cameras that the producers gave to Rachel so she could shoot her “video diary” for the show.
Plus, unlike other horror movies of the last couple of decades, both actors are likable, so you are actually invested in what is happening to them, so when the pregnancy gets weirder and even scarier, you sympathize with Kyle, who doesn’t know what the hell is going on and doesn’t know what the hell to do (unlike, say, the protagonists you’re waiting to see killed and you hope it’s a good death). The other performances are just as good and natural, which helps Delivery: The Beast Within with its follow through. While it doesn’t break any new ground and does rehash old tropes (even including a “she’s craving some rare/raw meat” bit as a nod to Rosemary’s Baby), the film is a tight, entertaining 90 minutes and one I’d recommend checking out.