4 out of 5
Directed by: Emma Tammi
I swear that the first, no pun intended, compliment that sprang to mind for this new Into the Dark entry was: it delivered. Hate me.
With that out of the way, I’ll add my caveat for this series that this rating stands more as a comparison to its peers; on its own terms as a movie, ‘Delivered’ is above average – it’s effective throughout, is shot with patience that serves its building tension, and offers convincing performances – but it’s also fairly standard pregnancy-horror fare, if there is a standard for such things. So consider it a good flick, and a really good ItD entry.
Val (Natalie Paul) is an expectant mother. Her husband dotes on her dutifully, supporting her through birthing classes and being an all-around good husband-type such that our guards are immediately up for hidden secrets, and for things to go South. When a cute newbie shows up at mommy class – Jenny (Tina Majorino) – and hubbie engages in some innocent, low-key flirt, our suspicions go a different way: in a drama, yes, there would be some affairing happening; in a horror film, though, it surely is going to be a mom vs. mom ordeal.
Indeed, Jenny seems to find her way into situations where she can be alone with Val, and maybe starts being forward with offering the couple to join her at her home for dinner, but writer Dirk Blackman and director Emma Tammi play this very cool, not dialing up anything with music cues or creepy camera angles to insure that anything really is awry. For all intents and purposes, Jenny is normal; Val is struggling with impending motherhood; husband is a loving husband. This credit to our creatives for not playing up the obvious similarly applies for when the flick does make its turn: when that dinner invitation doesn’t go as expected, there’s no playing around, as stakes are thrown down and intentions – or at least surface intentions – are made quite clear.
It’s probably obvious what that ‘turn’ is, and I’m sure it’s mentioned in other reviews, but I’ll leave it unsaid for spoiler-free purposes. What’s key, though, is how it plays out over the course of the rest of the movie. While ‘Delivered’ is guilty of a couple of obvious dream sequence fakeouts, and falls back on some “why would this item that explains something that’s supposed to be a secret be left out in the open” narrational laziness, I was easily able to forgive that when compared to all the smarter decisions in the flick’s favor: in keeping its leads very focused on their personal m.o.s; in not turning this into a lecture on motherhood; in playing fair with its established emotional and physical rules – no one becomes inhumanly powered or uber heroic or mustache-twiddling evil; and, simple enough: for not pushing the damn runtime longer than it needed to be, capping out at 80 minutes. Admittedly, even with that, the movie is at a loss to know what to do for its few minutes after its concluding scenes, but some indirect kudos for not trying to force anything unnecessary upon us as well – sometimes, you can just fade out without any final words and lessons and it’s a-okay.
‘Delivered’ does not break any especially new ground for horror, or in this mother-fueled subgenre, but it’s a quality flick on both accounts – making it a standout Into the Dark entry – with a great performance from Majorino and an equally strong, well-balanced offering from Natalie Paul, who takes what could’ve been a simpering, thankless role and gives us a character we can empathize with throughout.