By Ryan Keating-Lambert
Delirium is a run-of-the-mill supernatural thriller that uses the same old tropes for the same old scares, and struggles to be coherent in any way. It also feels like it should have been released 20 years ago.
Directed by Dennis Iliadis (The Last House on the Left), Delirium sees troubled young man Tom (Topher Grace) move back to his elaborate family home, after being released from a mental institution. Confined to the house on parole for 30 days, a series of mysterious events begin to unfold and Tom questions whether it’s the ghost of his recently deceased father, or if he just needs to take his meds.
Delirium starts as something worthwhile and is held up by the sheer fact that the horror maestros at Blumhouse have produced some very successful and sufficiently creepy titles in recent years, including last year’s Oscar winning Get Out, and M. Night Shyamalan’s triumphant Split. It was also produced by Leonardo DiCaprio.
It’s (another) one of those films that makes you question what’s real and what’s in your head, but this once intriguing premise is quickly exhausted by Delirium’s inability to develop itself into anything whole.
The film moves at an alarming pace and Tom’s dark and complicated family past is soon uncovered through a whole lot of shoddy dialogue with characters that are flat and one-dimensional. There is almost no reason why shop delivery girl Lynn (Genesis Rodriguez) is there at all. She comes off as a last-minute and half-assed attempt at a love interest. There are some flashbacks and ghost-like apparitions with family characters that provide some clarity about where everyone fits in, but they’re mainly there for the scare factor which is minimal, and eventually disappears altogether in the latter half of the film.
Topher Grace is an odd choice for the role of Tom and after seeing the guy in more interesting character roles, OK not in Spider-Man 3, but in Steven Soderbergh films like Traffic and Ocean’s 11, the guy doesn’t really fit the role of the victim. In his defence though, he’s given little to work with here, and what was with the running commentary? That certainly didn’t help the film’s scare factor.
Patricia Clarkson, an incredible on-screen talent, is also wasted here as a’ sort of’ parole officer who goes from odd to bat-shit crazy in about 4 lines. Everything feels rushed here.
I think this film’s biggest issue is that rather than gradually flesh out a generic ‘scare house’ narrative and a few characters over Tom’s expected 30 days in the house, they rush it to the point where you have virtually no clue as to what’s going on, nor are you really able to sympathise with anyone.
The script is also clunky and very repetitive, especially when Tom’s ex-con brother Alex shows up, played by Callan Mulvey, who I remember watching in Australian teen series Heart Break High in the ’90s. Remember that show?
Anyway, Delirium feels dated. It feels and looks like a washed out Dark Castle horror from the early 2000s – like Gothika or Thirteen Ghosts, but not as fun.
In Czech cinemas from 31st May.