If you’re in the market to have a thoroughly frustrating time, look no further. Stuntman-turned-director Johnny Martin brings us his latest film, Delirium, a would-be supernatural thriller told partially in the found footage format.
The plot sees a group of 20-something-year-old men — referenced once or twice as “The Hell Gang” – dare a wannabe member to reach the porch of an old mansion, supposedly haunted by a family that was murdered there. When the rest of the group gets busted by the police outside the mansion’s barbed-wire perimeter, they decide to go in after their friend. Armed with a camera and some flashlights, they scale the fences and make their way through the woods and up to the large, creepy house, prepared to take on anything that may be lurking inside it.
Delirium manages to make a pretty decent mess of itself, beginning with its inability to decide on a filming style. The format switches between the found footage technique, POV, and a traditional filming approach- and not for any strategic reason. Maybe this seems like a nitpick, but as there is not much else to focus on throughout the movie, it becomes a glaring issue. It’s distracting, confusing, and takes the viewer right out of the film. The movie even seems to confuse itself, incorporating a musical score at moments when we’re supposed to be watching one of our leads, Austin (Griffin Freeman), film his friends.
To make matters worse, Delirium is just outright boring. There is not much story to get lost in, the characters lack any amount of depth, and the film runs much too long and takes an inordinate amount of time to get to the action. Delirium clocks in at only an hour and twenty-six minutes, yet the group takes 45 minutes just to arrive at the mansion. All the while, the guys trek through the woods, scaring one another every so often. This quickly becomes vexatious, even to the characters themselves. Even when the group eventually gets inside the mansion, nothing of note really happens. Unlike a film such as Ti West’s The House of the Devil, which makes a calculated decision to draw out the tension and save its scares for the very end, Delirium never builds any tension and never makes up for the 45 minutes spent venturing up to the main location.
What’s most frustrating about Delirium is that it has good bones, but stumbles over itself. The premise, paired with the found footage style, may have worked better about ten years ago, but a decent story is there. The shots are competently composed, the effects are elementary but not bad. The film even has something really cool to boast: a weird, creepy, and unique opening credits segment that is somehow the highlight of the entire movie.
However, where the film goes wrong is when it fails to choose a single direction and see it through. Delirium is too ambitious for its ability and its budget (there are multiple visual allusions to The Shining, but unfortunately no sign of a Kubrick-sized allowance). It tries to be both found footage/POV and cinematic at once, spends most of its time in the woods but wants to call itself a haunted house thriller, wants to be a simple thrill-ride without complex characters but quickly tries to fabricate a strong bond between its subjects towards the end. If Delirium had been able to decide what it was going for and stuck with it, perhaps a passable film could have been pieced together. Sadly, what we are left with, instead, is a mixture with too many flavors to be any good.