Movie Review: Delirium

Leonardo DiCaprio was a producer of this generic horror dud

Delirium
Directed by Dennis Iliadis
With Topher Grace, Patricia Clarkson, Callan Mulvey, Genesis Rodriguez

Horror has been having a bad year, and Delirium does not come to the rescue. It is another film that failed to deliver on its premise. Shockingly, one of the producers of the film is Leonardo DiCaprio (who does not appear onscreen). The other main producer is Jason Blum, the man behind the Paranormal, Purge and Insidious franchises, as well as the Oscar-winning Get Out.

The premise is perhaps a bit too clever. A man named Tom (played by Topher Grace) is released from a mental institution and put under house arrest. The house he is sent to is a creaky mansion owned by his recently deceased father, and is now totally vacant.

He has an ankle bracelet and is not allowed out past the front door, even though the house has extensive grounds. He cannot have guests in the house. His only allowed contact it seems is his parole officer, Brody (Patricia Clarkson). He has to answer a phone several times a day to prove he is there.

This isn't really how house arrest works, and a released mental patient would be handled differently.

Setting that aside, the idea of putting a man suffering from hallucinations in an old dark house by himself with nothing but a bottle of pills and not even so much as a doctor to call does not seem to be a good plan.

The film plays with the idea that Tom can't tell what is real and what is not. Since almost everything is seen through Tom's eyes, neither can the audience.

The bulk of the scares, though, are all garden variety. Figures flash by, doors slam. Ghosts and mutilated corpses turn up and vanish. Electrical things malfunction. Phones ring.

Tom explores the house and finds lots of troubling things, many linked to his past when he lived there as a child. For some reason he watches videos of his childhood, even though events of his youth are what led him to the fragile state he is in. You would think he would want to avoid the reminders.

There are some plot twists as a few more characters turn up, but the contrived nature of the setup makes it hard for the audience to get that involved.

Far too many things in Delirium are never explained, and others seem contradictory. Some of the puzzle pieces just don't fit once the inevitable explanations come at the end.

The tone of the film shifts radically partway through, and this takes it far off course. People who are paying attention won't be surprised at some of the late events, but may still be asking, “Why, oh why?”
One thing that drags the film down is a dull lead character. Topher Grace  — known for his appearances in  That '70s Show and Spider-Man 3 — is uniformly bland throughout the film. Patricia Clarkson hits the right cynical notes as the parole officer, but the role is rather small. 

Two actors who turn up later in the film, Callan Mulvey and Genesis Rodriguez, help break the monotony. Mulvey often plays villains due to the scars on his face from a serious car crash. He brings a maniacal intensity to his role.  Rodriguez adds the film 's sole spark of humanity.

Director Dennis Iliadis, who made the 2009 remake of The Last House on the Left, does a competent but uninspired job with the material.

The biggest question to answer is why Leonardo DiCaprio is associated with this mess. The actor's production company Appian Way Productions became interested in the script and announced back in 2011 that Iliadis would direct, so the film has been in the pipeline for some time. The script had been on the Black List of promising unproduced films. This same list generated some hits like American Hustle and The Revenant. This script is not in the same league.

Appian Way way counts several Martin Scorsese films including The Wolf of Wall Street among its credits.

Delerium was a step down for all involved, save perhaps some of the supporting actors, who did their best with the material. 

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