Delirium - The Only Thing Haunting this Place is You
There is a certain allure in horror in utilizing mental illness for visual effect. Hallucinations can be so much more vivid when the constant question exists: is this real?
This is one of the main cruxes of Delirium, a Netflix-find horror film starring Topher Grace. The concept is nothing revolutionary: a young man who has been in an institute for twenty years treating trauma and mental illness is released into the wild, so to speak. But instead of our main character, Tom, navigating the real world, he is trapped for thirty days on probation in the mansion his late father left him.
In the beginning, there is already a lot to unpack. Tom has been institutionalized for twenty years after a traumatic incident. He relies on medication to deal with his vivid and horrific hallucinations. His mother left the family when Tom was a child, and his father commit suicide just before Tom was released.
There are some interesting elements presented in the opening fifteen. We get a large, solitary house where footsteps and whispers are heard, as well as a massive indoor swimming pool with a mechanical cover.
Tom’s clearly inadequate parole officer, a chain smoker with some terrible ethics, explains his ankle monitor, which doesn’t allow him to leave the house, and a phone call he must answer every 10 or so hours that also takes a photo of him. She is very clear that if he fails in any way, he will be shipped back to the institution.
Tom’s first day is the dream of any new adult living in a mansion: swimming naked in the pool, eating only junk food, doing what he pleases, but soon he begins experiencing horrific hallucinations, usually involving apparitions of his dead father. We are also introduced to Lynn, a spunky grocery delivery driver who digs into Tom’s past.
She reveals the secret: Tom murdered a young woman when he was thirteen. Well, not exactly murdered, as he explains, but that his older brother, in an act of vengeance, handcuffs him and makes him watch while he drowns the girl who refused Tom’s advances. His brother would then go on to murder again, get caught, and end up dragging Tom along, with Tom being institutionalized, and the brother in prison.
The next stretch of the movie is a toss-up of “is this real” moments, with hallucinations, breathy phone calls, and the return of Tom’s brother Alex, who he immediately discounts as a hallucination.
The third act is full of action and reveals, but somehow, throughout the interesting visuals and potential, the final reveals felt disappointing to me, flat, and derivative. Of all the possible threads the movie began with, the film took the most obvious path, with an ending that I can only describe as unsatisfying.
As far as haunted house movies go, Delirium hits a middle ground, with some interesting technology, but definitely not capitalizing on its potential. There are also some elements of the mental health aspect that felt inaccurate for me, including the very cornerstone of the concept, which seems like a cruel experiment at best. Side characters also take some turns that don’t entirely ring true, which deflated the film for me.
It’s a decent watch, but don’t expect anything ground breaking for the genre.