Every few weeks Joe (@bstolemyremote) and Terry (@gaylydreadful) discuss an episode of Hulu and Blumhouse’s Into The Dark series, alternating between our respective sites — queerhorrormovies.com and gaylydreadful.com.
This time around we’re checking out season two’s May entry, Delivered.
Episode 2.08: “A pregnant woman’s life is upended when she realizes someone close to her has darker plans for her and the baby.”
I really wanted to avoid using the word “oof” in this Into The Dark review because we joked about it last time, but OOF, Terry! At least unlike “I’m Just F**cking With You”, which was an unbearable slog of unlikable characters and not enough story to justify the runtime, May’s new episode Delivered only suffers from the latter issue.
At some point you would think that we would just start to accept the conditions that limit these entries. Just accept that the scope and size of the cast won’t be large, and that the set pieces will be minimal, etc. But to do so would be to let the film series off the hook for not finding creative ways to do simple stories effectively. The budget, production timeline or other concessions that affect the creation of these episodes aren’t public knowledge, but Into The Dark can – and should – aspire to do better by its audience.
A small caveat before we get into the film: A L’interieur / Inside, the 2007 New French Extremity film about a pregnant woman who is attacked in her home by a woman willing to kill her to acquire the baby, is quite literally one of my top ten favourite horror films. That means that when I see horror films with a predominant pregnancy theme, I struggle not to compare them to Inside, which means new texts will inevitably going to suffer a little in comparison.
Typically it’s not that big of an issue, but in the case of Delivered, directed by Emma Tammi from a script by Dirk Blackman, the film is literally about a non-pregnant woman (Tina Majorino) who imprisons and attacks a pregnant woman (Natalie Paul) in order to claim her baby for herself. So basically the latest entry of Into The Dark is delivering (heh) a redux of Inside, and the result doesn’t fare well by comparison.
What’s frustrating about Delivered is not the fact that it’s a small story performed primarily by two actresses. The economy of scale doesn’t have to be an issue if the story merits being told. See, for example, Misery, a film that Delivered briefly pays homage to, for an example of a movie that offers its two main actors plenty of meaty material to work through. Misery is a captivating tale not just because of Kathy Bates (and to a lesser extent James Caan)’s performance(s), but because Misery has levels, and surprises and a dynamic power struggle.
Sadly, Delivered has little of that. I’ll offer hefty praise for Paul and Majorino (the latter of whom I adore for her very different role as Mac on Veronica Mars) because the two actresses are doing everything that they can with this narrative, but there’s simply nothing for them to do. Everything that audiences think will happen does happen and it occurs in around the allotted time frame that we expect it to happen. This is the definition of safe and bland storytelling…to such an extent, Terry, that I almost laughingly DM’d you that this is 5 minutes of plot stretched out to 76.
This shouldn’t suggest that there’s nothing fresh to be said about motherhood and pregnancy and the horrors that accompany it. Pregnancy horror is fertile territory (bam!), but Delivered is content merely to hang around the surface without delving any further into something more meaningful; it’s as though Blackman stumbled upon the idea of a pregnant woman in danger from a woman who wants her baby, pounded out a script and called it a day. Well guess what? It’s been done and it’s been done far, far better than this.
Terry, am I being too hard on the film? Did the contained-to-the-farm scale of the film work for you? Do the men serve any other purpose than mere fodder for Majorino’s Jenny to kill off? And why the hell does the film open in medias res?
Joe, I’m afraid I’m going to have to…
*holds for a pregnant pause*
…mostly agree with you. When Delivered was announced, we both immediately groaned because it sounded very similar to Inside and we already had a crappy US remake of that, so why bother. It turns out, though, like you mentioned, that what we got instead feels more directly tied to Stephen King’s masterful (and masterfully adapted) Misery. I’d say it’s more than briefly homaged…Delivered feels like a generic ripoff of that film.
And that’s what you call a twist.
Here’s what I find most frustrating about this second year of Into the Dark. Like I’ve mentioned before, it makes me sad that inventive filmmakers are saddled with mediocre scripts. I know you weren’t so enamored with director Emma Tammi’s debut feature film The Wind, but the look of that film and the direction was fantastic to me. It took a very small location with only a handful of characters and, while it was a very slow burn, it managed to be an appropriately spooky prairie ghost story.
Here, I find Tammi’s direction to be slick and she pulls fantastic performances from our two leads. The direction is helped along by The Wind’s cinematographer, Lyn Moncrief. Moncrief’s camera work does the best it can with such a limited location and a script that is fatally inert. In fact, the vehicular set piece looks like it belongs in a different movie as it’s flashy and staged really well.
The problem is that that particular set piece doesn’t end the movie…it has to go on for another twenty minutes. Truthfully, I enjoyed the first act and I liked the third act…it’s the DOA middle act that’s a slog to get through. Here’s where I wish the script had taken more from either of the two movies it’s stealing from. As you mentioned above, there’s literally nothing for our two leads to do. There’s no cat and mouse. There’s no intrigue. The audience already knows most of what the story wants to divulge from our villain’s backstory.
As for our man-fodder, it’s absolutely true. They have no real purpose other than to have a body count. But I will say that it was somewhat refreshing that neither of their actions really help Val escape. She’s on her own and must do it by herself. Faint praise, maybe, but that’s kind of where I’m at right now.
I’m going to give the in medias res as much time as it deserves and just ignore that it exists. Unless you’re literally starting the story in medias res and going from there…just…don’t. I don’t know, Joe. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I just want these directors to have more interesting scripts to work with. Did anything work for you? And what’s your final rating?
Yeah, I whole-heartedly agree with everything that you said. “Delivered” is a casualty of bad-scripting, so while everything else is actually working (the direction, the performances, the cinematography, hell even the cat Sollie!), none of it makes up the fact that there’s just not enough here. Into The Dark’s single biggest issue is its continuing scripting challenges, which never seem to justify the run time.
At this point, I think we’re just beating a dead cat (and then sticking it in a toilet), so let’s rate this entry and be done with it. I’m sadly giving it a 1.5/5. As much as I thought it looked great and Paul and Majorino were trying their best, I’d rather watch Crawlers over this. At least something happened in that entry.
Terry, what’s your final score for “Delivered”?
“Beating a dead cat”? Ouch. Too soon, Joe. Too soon.
I’m probably a bit more lenient towards this because I actually enjoyed the first and third act. And the antagonistic chemistry between Tina Majorino and Natalie Paul kept me watching.
I’d personally watch this over Crawlers, inert second act and all. I’m giving it 2/5 stars. I might add half a point for Sollie. Pouring one out for the grumpy cat.
Next time: we’re traveling into the past to check out S1’s May entry, “All That We Destroy” which is directed by Chelsea Stardust and features cloning!