Matt Nelson, Tara Cardinal, Kevin O'Neill, Melissa Gruver and Petra Bukalo
Jose Z. Cassella
Jose Z. Cassella
Polychrome/Warner Home Video
It didn't happen with the "Hostel" films.
It didn't happen during the "Hills Have Eyes" films.
It's never happened during the "Friday the 13th," "Saw" or even, with the exception of the original film, the "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" films.
It DID happen during that 1974 horror classic, "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre." It even happened to a certain degree during the original "Halloween."
Now, it's happened again in writer/director Jose Cassella's "Delivery," an ultra-low budget indie psychological horror flick starring Matt Nelson as a portly, disheveled pizza delivery man with a traumatic past and a seeming inability to create a not so traumatic future.
What is it that happened? Simple. I cared about the "bad guy."
It's a rare film and, even more importantly, a rare actor who can make you actually care about a guy as he goes about pissing away his days and, in the end, slaughtering nearly everyone in his path. Yet, somehow, Nelson creates in Montgomery Goth a sympathetic and, in fact, downright heartbreaking man whom you know damn well is doomed but you keep hoping that somehow it'll all work out in the end.
It is difficult to describe "Delivery," a film reportedly made on a stunningly low $4,000 budget that has recently been picked up by WB Home Video for a DVD release. While the film has the stereotypical horror scenes for fanboys, such as multiple breast shots, lesbian scenes and moderately graphic killings, "Delivery" is, at its core, much more of a psychological horror flick that actually seeks to explore the disturbing roots of our everyday horrifying society.
On a certain level, "Delivery" reminds me of Uwe Boll's only tolerable film, "Heart of America," a film that sought to go a bit deeper into the Columbine killings. Much like that Boll film, Cassella's "Delivery" is occasionally plagued by cheesy special effects and, at times, performances that seem out of balance with one another as they vacillate between over-the-top cam and deeply human. Where Cassella's film achieves superiority is in the intelligence of the script, the much stronger lead performances and, most importantly, Cassella's approach never seems to glorify the violence so much as it tries to explore it holistically.
As much as it is impossible to sympathize with someone who goes on a slaughtering spree, there's no denying that by the time Monty cracks he's endured abuse, humiliation, failure and rejection in such abundance that nearly anyone, especially someone with a traumatic background, would crack.
I found myself wondering "What would have happened if a single person had actually treated Monty with genuine kindness?"
In his cinematic debut, Nelson (who was named "Best Actor" at the 2006 Scream Fest) offers a genuinely complex, multi-layered performance in what could have easily been a one-note portrayal. The closing scenes between Monty and Bibi (relative newcomer Tara Cardinal), who is one of the very few persons to ever show him kindness, is suspenseful primarily because you've grown to care about Monty and you want, even though it's completely unreasonable, for him to find a way out of this predicament in which he finds himself. One can only hope that Hollywood continues to find ways to use this talented young actor.
As Monty's only earthly guardian angel, Tara Cardinal also shows promise with a sensitive, grounded performance even while surrounded by chaos. While her character felt a tad underdeveloped and the initial chemistry between her and Monty felt a touch forced, Cardinal's vulnerability allowed Bibi and Monty to connect richly and, as the film moved towards its inevitable end, the sheer sadness of the entire scenario became very real.
Supporting roles were a bit more hit and miss, most notably the campier portrayals of pizza parlor owner Mr. Hand (Kevin J. O'Neill) and a junkyard lady (Melissa Gruver). While camp isn't necessarily inappropriate, especially in a low-budget horror flick, it felt awkward in "Delivery" when contrasting with the more richly human performances of Nelson and Cardinal.
While not quite believable as a therapist type, Trhea Danae managed to win me over with a simultaneously sexy, sensual and even sensitive performance.
As should be expected with an ultra low-budget flick, the production values in "Delivery" are basic and, while there is a modest attempt at CGI it is more distracting than it is a plus for the film. In particular, a sorority house scene that should have been utterly horrifying after a suspenseful build-up, instead becomes a bit laughable. This scene, as well, bears resemblance to Boll's drug scene right before the massacre. In that scene, as well, I found myself chuckling rather than horrified.
Fortunately, the action bounces back rather quickly and that's pretty much the end of the special effects.
Cassella's musical score (he also was Director of Photography) certainly won't make anyone forget the magnificent way in which "Halloween" magnificently utilized its score in building suspense and terror, however, it accomplishes as much as can be expected with what sounds, essentially, like synthesizers.
I love films like "Delivery," not necessarily because they're brilliant films but because they're proof that independent film is alive and well in America. Behind promising performances from Matt Nelson and Tara Cardinal and Cassella's surprisingly intelligent script, "Delivery" is an unexpectedly entertaining, suspenseful and moving film that may say, above anything else, that our own lack of humanity is the most horrifying thing of all.
- Richard Propes
The Independent Critic