What is reality and what is a delusion? This quandary is the heart of many psychological/horror movies, and Blumhouse Production’s Delirium (formerly known as Home) does its best to tap into that primal fear of, “If you can’t trust what you see, who do you trust?” But then, the film drops the ball with a horrendously complicated plot, one that does its best to fool the protagonist as well as the audience, and fails.
In director Dennis Iliadis’ latest film Delirium, we get the story of a man recently released from a mental institution who inherits his late father’s mansion – to hopefully get a fresh start – only to discover that his past isn’t quite done with him yet. Our protagonist is Tom Walker (Topher Grace), the man being released from said mental institution – which he spent years there for an undisclosed crime – and the good doctor sends him off into the world with the simple advice of “Trust your brain not your eyes.” Now is Tom being sent to a halfway house to ease him back into the real world – having been incarcerated since he was a young teen, that would seem to be a good idea – or is he going to live with a surviving family member? Nope, apparently he just inherited his dad’s sprawling mansion – good ole dad, having committed suicide mere days ago – and so he is packed off to live inside the place that could very well be the seat of his personal psychosis.
So, right off the hop we are asked to swallow a pretty ridiculous premise – if the doctor was later revealed to be part of some sort of conspiracy, that would have helped, but alas, we never see that quack again – and the factors revolving around Tom’s release get even worse as we learn the terms of his parole, terms that make little to no sense.
• He is under house arrest in the spooky mansion his dad just died in. I’m not sure what legitimate doctor would find that a healthy environment for a mental patient.
• His ankle monitor will go off if he so much as steps one foot outside the front door of the house, yet the mansion’s grounds are incredibly expansive. So he can’t even walk in the bloody garden?
• He is allowed no visitors – other than his parole officer – for the entire run of his house arrest. How is that even legal?
To make things even worse, his parole officer (Patricia Clarkson) tries to make out with him – this comes so out of left-field, it’s almost comical – and when Tom rebuffs her sexual advances, she storms off, taking his meds with her, and leaving him alone with his delusions. And just what kind of delusions does Tom suffer from? Well, aside from seeing his dead dad – with a horrifically chewed up face due to the combination of his body being found days after his suicide and a hungry dog – we are kept guessing as to what is real and what is an illusion. The key factor here is director Dennis Iliadis attempting to keep the audience wondering “What is real and what is just in Tom’s head,” and this comes not from clever writing but from the fact that all the supporting characters act in such an unbelievable fashion that you have to assume they are all part of Tom’s mental breakdown.
• There is the aforementioned hard-assed parole officer full of sexual misconduct.
• We get Tom’s older brother Alex (Callan Mulvey) popping in and out of rooms like a ghost, even though he is supposed to be in prison.
• Then there is Lynn (Genesis Rodriguez), the delivery girl from the local grocery store, who apparently has a thing for guys recently released from mental institutions.
Aside from surprise visits – which at least gives us a break from Topher Grace’s rather unconvincing acting – we get Tom discovering that his father (Robin Thomas) – a respected senator – may have had some dark secrets of his own. Tom finds a hidden passageway behind the walls, that lead to peep holes that his father obviously used to spy on his family, and most damning is a two-way mirror in the master bedroom that reveals a hidden camera, one that has recorded some very bizarre shit.
As the movie goes on, we learn more about Tom’s past – what particular horrific crime landed him in a psych ward and why his brother is in prison – but the mysteries really don’t add up to anything we actually care about. Who is that mysterious caller on that private line? Is Alex a hallucination or did he actually escape prison? Why is there a severed tongue hidden inside the indoor pool’s control box? Did Tom’s mother really abandon her family all those years ago? Is this house actually haunted? All of these questions are sort of answered – some of which you will have guessed well in advance of the big reveal – but overall I didn’t care enough about Tom to make the effort.
Delirium is well shot – cinematographer Mihai Mălaimare Jr. should get most of the credit for what does work in this film – and the supporting cast does the best with what they were given, which to be fair, wasn’t much, but the film’s protagonist Topher Grace’s Tom Walker is just too unlikable of a character for a viewer to get behind. Delirium crumbles under a shaky premise – that even the most talented cast would have had a hard time holding up – resulting in a film that has, at best, a few creepy moments, but overall is just forgettable.