Delirium (2018)

delirium-blumhouse-tilt-topher-grce

“A man recently released from a mental institute inherits a mansion after his wealthy parents die. After a series of disturbing events, he comes to believe it is haunted.” — IMDb

Not to be confused with ANOTHER movie called Delirium and also released in 2018… this one stars Topher Grace as Tom, a man freshly released from 20 years of institutionalization following a wrongful murder conviction when he was a teenager. He’s now alone in the mansion that his distant politician father occupied before his abrupt suicide the day before Tom was to be released, and he’s battling a whole slew of demons, though he can’t be sure what’s in his head and what’s out there in the world…

** SPOILERS! **

This film was, to be succinct, formulaic and a bit predictable. Okay, VERY predictable. I don’t mind a movie’s premise being familiar. The whole “guy can’t decipher what’s real and what’s in his mind” idea isn’t the most original, and that’s fine. But it’s what you do with that familiar premise that matters, and this really didn’t have anything added to it that spiced it up enough to be memorable.

It’s too bad, because I wanted to like it more. I’ve always been a fan of Topher Grace’s nervous charm (I had a huge crush on him in That 70’s Show), and I think he did decently well in this film. I wish the director, Dennis Iliadis (who directed the 2009 adaptation of The Last House on the Left), had encouraged more of a breakdown from him, honestly. There’s only a couple scenes when he truly goes beyond this hands-tied-behind-his-back mode and it’s pretty great, but most of the time he is confusingly calm about the fact that his mind betrays him at every turn. I suppose one could argue that he’s been dealing with it for 20 years, but he mentions himself that he feels way out of his element being alone for the first time in, well, ever, so I’d expect more of a freak out. Maybe if they had stretched the movie over the full course of his 30 days and not just the first 3, we would have seen more desperation from him.

The absolute maze of a house scared me all by itself, really. I think they did a good job at making it feel larger than life, in a way. But the idea of being alone in such a massive house has always freaked me out — there’s just no way you can ever know what else is occupying that space alongside you. The first time he gets one of the staticky, warbling phone calls gave me chills — his reaction to go hole up in his childhood bedroom was spot on.

The character of Lynn (played by Genesis Rodriguez — coincidentally I managed to watch two movies in a row that starred her) felt so incredibly forced that I was convinced she had to be a figment of his imagination. His whole back-and-forth with pulling her in and pushing her away, their painfully cheesy moments (like giggling on the couch together while drinking juice boxes, just a couple of messed up kids!), even the fact that she seemed, style-wise, to fit right into his memories of the 90’s (ripped leggings under her skirt, wrist warmers, and her “mood ring” mix CDs). But nope… she was just shoehorned in as the improbably hot grocery delivery girl who is vaguely, almost, a love interest. I mean, she brought the guy a mix CD before ever meeting him based on… what, exactly? At this point all she might have known is that a) his dad died, and b) he was charged with murder, so… I won’t even try to answer that.

The jump scares worked the first couple times but after a handful it’s sort of like… yep, okay, another half-eaten person.

I did enjoy the metaphors for mental illness. Tom being freaked enough at one point to just run out of the house but then heeding the frantic beeping of his ankle monitor was a grim reminder of how stuck we often are in our own mental illness, or even fear. Him sitting at the bottom of the pool, both weighed down and weightless, felt very symbolic to me… that slow motion feeling of depression, getting tired by the least bit of effort. And, immediately after, his absolute panic when the ceiling was closing in above him, rushing to escape. Heck, probably the strongest scene in the whole film.

We had a sort of Tyler Durden feel with his brother, Alex — the real perpetrator of the murder that put him away — being this contrary force in his life, if not now in reality than in the duality of his mind. He kept repeating phrases like “I’m doing what you couldn’t” and “Isn’t that what you really want?” — again, a fairly interesting concept sadly lost in a mediocre film. We all have a savage side that we fight — or don’t.

Honestly, I think this story could have been more effectively packed into a short rather than a feature-length film. It could have done away with much of the fluff and the repeat jump scares and maybe focused more on the erosion of the mind. I will certainly be interested in future projects but this one just didn’t do a whole lot for me, despite what I think were some good efforts on Grace’s part!

Rating: 4/10 | Director: Dennis Iliadis | Writer: Adam Alleca | Music: Nathan Whitehead | Cinematography: Mihai Malaimare Jr. | Starring: Topher Grace, Patricia Clarkson, Genesis Rodriguez, Callan Mulvey, Robin Thomas, Daisy McCrackin

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