AICN HORROR: Ambush Bug talks with Brian Netto & Adam Schindler about preggo horror & their new film DELIVERY: THE BEAST WITHIN! Plus a review!
Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. There’s been a lot of pregnancy horror films coming out recently, but the best of the bunch I’ve seen has been the film DELIVERY, which I had a chance to check out a few months ago. I recently spoke with the film’s producer/co-writer Adam Schindler and the director/co-writer Brian Netto about their film, pregnancy horror, and how they made this found footager different from the rest. Here’s what transpired…
AMBUSH BUG (BUG): Can you tell my readers what DELIVERY is all about?
BRIAN NETTO (BN): DELIVERY tells the story of Kyle and Rachel Massy, a young couple that is having their first pregnancy documented for a reality TV series. The show is family friendly and upbeat, in the vein of those TLC style shows like JOHN & KATE PLUS 8.
ADAM SCHINDLER (AS): But as the cameras begin to roll, things start to unravel and Rachel begins to believe a malevolent spirit might be after her unborn child. It gets pretty dark.
BUG: Was this always planned to be a sort of "found footage" style film, or was there a point when it was going to be a more conventionally filmed movie?
BN: I don't know that this story would have appealed to us had it been done conventionally, as a traditional narrative film. The format was married to the idea from the very beginning. The fun of it, the challenge of it, was re-creating a saccharine, sweet reality show that felt genuine and real, and then slowly introducing familiar horror tropes and ideas into that world.
AS: People have compared us to ROSEMARY’S BABY and although those comparisons are absolutely flattering, we like to believe DELIVERY is something a little different…that we’ve added our own little spin to the demonic pregnancy and found footage subgenres.
BUG: I saw this film last year and really liked it. Since then, DEVIL'S DUE was released and when it was, I immediately thought about DELIVERY. Is it a good thing or bad thing for you that DEVIL'S DUE has already been released, and how do you think it will affect the release of DELIVERY?
BN: Indie films can sometimes take a long time to get into the world - particularly when they're self-financed, as ours was. DELIVERY had been in the can for over a year and was set to premiere at last year's LA Film Festival before DEVIL'S DUE even rolled cameras. In fact, just to show you how long the journey truly was, years ago we met with a young filmmaker that had just made a found footage film that was sitting on a shelf at Paramount. We had heard about his film and just wanted to pick his brain as we had just begun the writing process. It was Oren Peli. A few months later after we finished our first draft of DELIVERY, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY hit theaters and completely changed the landscape.
It remains to be seen what impact DEVIL'S DUE will have on our film. I've not seen it, though I was a really big fan of their haunted house short on V/H/S. I think genre film fans tend to be pretty voracious - they love to consume and compare. That said, the response to our film has been overwhelmingly positive and more than anything, audiences and reviewers really seem to appreciate the care we took in creating a very specific world, sticking to the rules that world was built upon and then taking the time and interest to craft a strong narrative and strong characters.
BUG: Pregnancy horror seems to be on the rise these days with PROXY, DEVIL'S DUE, the upcoming ROSEMARY'S BABY remake on NBC…why do you think now is the time for a return to pregnancy horror?
BN: Pregnancy is such a universal experience. The idea of bringing a child into this world comes with a lot of trepidation, nervousness - particularly if you're going through it for the first time. I think if you were to look at the shared thread between all of the films you listed, it's a feeling of paranoia: the idea that outside forces - forces either natural or supernatural - are trying to force their way into your life and potentially harm you or your family. And, spoiler alert, in the case of ROSEMARY'S BABY, the threat to her family is not only an external one but an internal one as well. I’m sure there’s lots of interesting correlations that could be drawn considering the issues of the day – things like how people feel about our government and its role in intrusion into our everyday lives, threats to our well being both domestic or foreign, etc. I can’t say any of those were ever a part of how DELIVERY was crafted, certainly not consciously anyway. Our favorite genre films have always had interesting ideas like that bubbling just beneath the surface.
AS: Circling back to what Brian was saying about pregnancy being a universal experience. A great example of this was what was happening in and around set as we were shooting DELIVERY. At the time of filming, Danny Barclay (who plays Kyle) had just had his first child. My wife and I were literally two weeks away from the birth of our first child when we wrapped principal photography. Our DP had adopted an infant a few months prior to pre-production. So the entire lead up and shoot was steeped in pregnancy and babies. It was quite serendipitous, and actually helped inform a number of decisions on set, massaging moments to make sure everything felt as completely genuine as possible.
BUG: The film is made as if it were a reality TV series one might see on Lifetime, and feels very genuine in the opening half of the film before things get scary. What did you do to make this feel like a genuine pilot for a series? Have you had experience making a pilot like this before?
BN: The approach we took from the outset was to make the opening act feel as authentic as possible. Not just the show, but the people that populate the show. So it starts with casting - finding actors that can not only handle dramatic improvisation but also feel like they would have been chosen for a show like DELIVERY. Our DP, Andrew Bates, had shot a reality TV pilot once before, so not only did he know the look and feel, he was also comfortable with the run and gun approach that these shows often have. Neither of us had experience making a reality show before. It's surprising how much you can learn about the pacing, editing and music of one of these shows just by watching a few minutes. These shows are predicated on keeping your attention with fast editing, upbeat music and lots and lots of transitions.
AS: Both of our wives watch reality television religiously, so it was a lot of what I call ‘couch time’. Just sitting there, watching every baby-related reality show we could find. Picking what we like from each and mashing it together into a program we really thought people would enjoy. We wanted to steer clear of the hyper-reality style shows you would find on MTV. We wanted/needed DELIVERY the TV show to feel completely real and completely accessible. The rest of the story hinged on that believability, so it’s nice to hear people say that going in they thought the reality angle would be used just as a gimmick, but were pleasantly surprised that it is so much a part of what makes DELIVERY successful.
BUG: I think most people don't give found footage films enough credit sometimes. When it's done well, I think it can be very well, especially in terms of acting that feels like the actors aren't acting at all. What is the key to making the actors feel and act natural, as if they aren't reading lines, in a film like this which is supposed to be capturing things spontaneously?
BN: Again, that goes back to casting. We had written what we called a "scriptment": it was 65 pages long, but had very little dialogue because we knew all along that the film would be largely improvised. The actors would never see the script at any point in the process, so we'd be feeding them scenes just before we rolled cameras. The actors we were looking for needed to 1) be able to handle dramatic improv, which is an entirely different discipline from comedic improv; 2) feel like a couple that would have been chosen for such a show, so they had to have that perfect "every couple" feel to them; and 3) be able to go to some pretty dark places as the film progresses. It also meant the actors would have to trust us implicitly, since they never knew exactly where the story was going. We spent roughly a year and a half casting the film, and it was well worth the wait. Top to bottom, the cast did a phenomenal job.
AS: The scariest part of the whole process was the last night of principal photography, when we had to pull Laurel Vail (who plays Rachel) aside and tell her what happens at the end. Of course, no spoilers here, but she had to agree with it, that it felt right for the story, etc. Luckily we were all on the same page and were able to shoot the ending as originally scripted.
BUG: We're on the breaking point with found footage films, as there seems to be a new one like this every week. What do you say to someone who rolls their eyes when you tell them DELIVERY is found footage?
BN: The funny thing is, when we pitch people the story, they immediately get why the format is what it is. The very conceit of the story is a show gone wrong, and it feels organic, even necessary, to the film. I've been pleased to hear some critics say they almost don't want to consider it "found footage" because of the presentation and quality, almost like they don't want us to be lumped in with the others. As a genre fan, I completely get the fatigue many have with found footage, and I think most of that stems from the fact that many found footage films would be better off had they been told as a traditional narrative film. It's a storytelling tool and should only be used to serve the story and unfortunately, more often than not, that isn't the case.
AS: I think the main issue you have with most found footage films is they tend to be on a pretty condensed timeline - an event happens to be captured over the course of a few hours, days or a team investigating a haunted house over the weekend. It’s really hard to create believable character arcs with the condensed timeline obstacle in your way. Our goal was to create a found footage film that had these character arcs and themes layered in. Luckily, when you’re dealing with the subject of pregnancy, you already have that built-in timeline, your ticking clock so to speak, but it just happens to be over a nine month period and not nine hours. Presenting everything in a mockumentary format also provided us the ability to jump back and forth in time to develop those character arcs and nuances. I really think that if the found footage style is used as a storytelling technique and not strictly for budgetary reasons, it can be really effective.
BUG: What has audience reaction been like to DELIVERY? I know the ending is one of those shocks that is definitely going to cause a strong reaction.
BN: Naturally, every filmmaker wants their film to be seen on the big screen. The cool thing about this film is, it plays really, really well with an audience. The first act is upbeat and people are laughing along with the show, the second act people start shifting in their seats as the tone shifts and by the third act, things have completely gone to shit. There is nothing more satisfying than sitting in a packed theater and hearing the entire room react so audibly and so vehemently to something you created on screen. Someone sitting behind our lead actress at the Little Rock Horror Picture Show last month inadvertently launched his phone two rows over his head during the finale. We also started noticing festival programmers would start sneaking in at the end of our film with these giddy little expressions on their face - everyone wanted to be there to hear the audience reaction, which never fails to be quite loud.
AS: We premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival last June, and naturally we were biting our nails the entire time. It was such an intense experience. It was the first time viewing it with a completely objective audience. Although there were some family and friends in the crowd, most of the audience was your average ticket paying moviegoer who just wanted to get scared. So when the entire audience reacted at the end in an extremely vocal way, we knew that everything that preceded it had worked. Personally, it was easily one of the best experiences of my young filmmaking career. It was an amazing feeling.
BUG: Do you want to share any insight on making an indie film? What's it like touring with a film on the festival circuit and finally seeing it picked up and getting released like this?
BN: The great thing about making a film on your own is the creative independence. We had complete autonomy. And since we were working way off the radar, we could take the time necessary to put the project together the right way by finding people as passionate as we were and hiring actors that could pull off what we required of them. There was no rushing to meet deadlines imposed by others, simply because we had no others to impose those deadlines. It was just Adam and I and our small crew, making sure that it was done as we originally envisioned.
The down side, of course, is the lack of funding, but we got to make the film that we wanted ultimately. And for this particular film, for the choices we made, I would take creative control over a few more dollars in the budget any day.
AS: As far as touring our film on the festival circuit, it’s definitely been a whirlwind. After getting into LA Film Fest last June, we found that other festivals would start requesting DELIVERY. Programmers talk and pass along your film. It can get very incestuous that way. But there’s never a guarantee that programmers will like your film and you’ll get into their festival. Getting into a larger festival (especially one based in Los Angeles) definitely opened doors for us. We’ve had the blessing of being able to travel all over the world to screen DELIVERY. Sixteen festivals in total, ironically, our last of which will be our screening at Nocturna Film Festival in Spain on the same day of our VOD release in the US (Tuesday, May 27th).
BUG: What's next for you guys now that DELIVERY has been...delivered?
AS: Brian and I fashion ourselves and our production entity – Type AB Films - as a collective of filmmakers, albeit there’s only two of us. Brian directed DELIVERY and I produced; we both wrote. Right now we’re gearing up to shoot a short film that I will be directing. In between writing, we’ve also been sent a phenomenal script that we really love and hope to make. It will be my feature directorial debut and Brian will be producing it. It's the first time making something that we didn’t write, which is uncharted territory for us. So, lots of exciting things on the horizon. Stay tuned.
BUG: Check out my review of DELIVERY: THE BEAST WITHIN after the trailer and look for it in limited theatrical and On Demand this week!
In theaters tomorrow and available now On Demand!
DELIVERY: THE BEAST WITHIN (2013)Directed by Brian Netto
Written by Brian Netto & Adam Schindler
Starring Laurel Vail, Danny Barclay, Colter Allison, Rebecca Brooks, Lance Buckner, Rob Cobuzio, David Alan Graf
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
There’s something precious about a pregnant woman that’s almost taboo in horror. When Jason murders the pregnant girl in FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 3, for me, it was one of the most shocking of his kills. Usually in horror, the pregnant one lives, mainly because of the message that the unborn is supposed to be the ultimate in innocence—there to be protected at all costs and the hope that something good can come from all of the terror we have witnessed. Yet in one of the most infamous pregnancies in horror, at the end of HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP, and in many films afterward, the pregnancy is often used as that final shockeroo moment to keep the audience screaming. Still, what a pregnant woman is put in danger, I still can’t help but wince.
And that’s what makes DELIVERY such an effective film. Maybe it’s because of what I tried to explain above, or maybe it’s because I just became an uncle for the first time, but I found this found footage meets ROSEMARY’S BABY flick to be one of the more intense films of the subgenre. Centering around a reality television show, which at first had the intention of being a light hearted look at a couple during their first pregnancy, the tone of DELIVERY turns deathly serious when Rachel (Laurel Vail) has a scare with the baby in the pilot episode. Ever since that night, Rachel and her husband Kyle (Danny Barclay) begin to experience strange things occurring around them. Things get even more strange as the pregnancy progresses.
I want to keep things vague because I think you’ll enjoy DELIVERY if you go in expecting another hum drum found footage flick. I did that and couldn’t believe how powerful it hit me. The final moments of this film literally knocked the wind out of me. Again, the concept is one that evokes a protective feeling and Laurel Vail makes it all easy since she is extremely likable as Rachel. The set up, that the couple has experienced miscarriages before, makes it almost impossible not to root for them and the filmmakers take full advantage of that notion and use that investment to scare the shit out of the viewer time and time again.
Though the first section of the film is set up to be the pilot episode of the intended series and is set to strumming guitars and quick montages of the couple maneuvering through the city, DELIVERY quickly turns more into a documentary. Rick (Rob Cobuzio) the director of the DELIVERY series, talks stoically to the camera, explaining that the rest of the film is made up of raw footage taken from the rest of the unaired season. Deciding to have Rick pop in occasionally to explain what’s going on in the periphery at first feels as if the film is taking the wind out of the scares by announcing when something bad is going to happen. But Cobuzio does such a good job here that it feels like a blessing in disguise that he warns us before hand and definitely puts a dire tone to the film which starkly contrasts with the joy the couple is feeling in the opening moments. It also gives the promise that something horrible is going to happen and holy shit does it.
I was completely entranced by this film, internally begging for Rachel and Kyle to somehow have the baby of their dreams and fearing what kind of monster is growing inside of her. The final moments of this film are so intense, so frightening, and so real that even though you know it’s a movie, you’re going to be fooled by the reality of it all. The trailer below doesn’t do the film justice, as it makes the film feel like it’s a PARANORMAL ACITVITY riff and while the haters will dismiss this film immediately, DELIVERY is more effective than the last three PA films combined. If the final moments of this film don’t affect you in some way, you must already be dead. I was hit hard by this film which feels more like a documentary than a true found footage film. The scares are intense, the mood is dire, and the people in danger are worth rooting for. DELIVERY is one hell of a pregnancy horror movie and feels like a modern day ROSEMARY’S BABY. That’s high praise from this reviewer who holds Polanski’s film up to be one of the best of the best in horror.
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over 12 years & AICN HORROR for 3. He has written comics such as VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS THE TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, THE DEATHSPORT GAMES, & NANNY & HANK (soon to be made into a feature film from Uptown 6 Films). He has co-written FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND’s LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF (to be released in 2013 as a 100-pg original graphic novel). Mark wrote the critically acclaimed GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK from Zenescope Entertainment & GRIMM FAIRY TALES #76-81. Look for GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK: LAST OF THE SPECIES available in February-July 2013 and the new UNLEASHED crossover miniseries GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS WEREWOLVES: THE HUNGER #1-3 available in May-July 2013! Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitter @Mark_L_Miller.
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