INTO THE DARK: DELIVERED (2020) - **1/2 out of ****
Directed By: Emma Tammi
Starring: Natalie Paul, Tina Majorino, Micah Joe Parker, Michael Cassidy, Rosslyn Luke, Vito D’Ambrosio, Joel Dupont
Running Time: 80 Minutes
Plot: A pregnant woman’s life is upended when she realizes someone close to her has darker plans for her and the baby.
Have any of you ever wanted a version of the 1990 Stephen King classic MISERY, but with a pregnant woman instead of a famous author? No? Well too bad, because Into the Dark’s latest entry is just that with DELIVERED - a film supporting the Mother’s Day holiday by having a psychotic woman kidnapping a pregnant woman to steal her baby by any means necessary. When did sending a card and flowers go out of style?
DELIVERED is pretty much the film adaptation of MISERY mixed with some 2007’s INSIDE - without the film being as good as any of those two films I just mentioned. However, it’s a decent installment of Into the Dark as it has some good performances, a simple and predictable story and some messed up gore at times. I think those reasons are probably why I prefer this year’s installment over ALL THAT WE DESTROY from last year. It doesn’t try to raise questions the film isn’t ready to answer. DELIVERED is a standard thriller that wouldn’t be out of place on Lifetime, which is fine for the story it wants to tell.
Like I mentioned a few times already, DELIVERED is pretty much an updated female-centric version of MISERY. It follows pretty much the same beats and even has nods to the Stephen King film near the end, which probably doesn’t help the film’s case. Instead of an obsessed fan who takes her favorite author hostage so he can write a better ending for her favorite character, we have an obsessed woman who fakes a pregnancy taking a real pregnant woman hostage so she can steal the baby once she helps the woman go into labor. Instead of being confined to a bed the whole time, the pregnant woman is chained by her feet so she can only get around enough without escaping. The villain feeds her things to speed up the pregnancy, while getting rid of anyone or anything that could jeopardize her plan. There’s even a part near the end where the villain breaks the pregnant woman’s foot, which is pretty unnecessary but you can’t do a MISERY remake without that moment I guess.
The characters are interesting enough for the audience to care about what’s going on. The pregnant woman has a husband she loves, yet doesn’t feel connected [or want to be connected] to her own baby and seems indifferent to the whole deal. She’s also avoiding some dude she knew in Chicago, which is one of the most predictable subplots I’ve seen in a film in a long while. I’ve watched soap operas. I know the deal there. As for the villain, her purpose for wanting to steal another woman’s baby to raise as her own, even if she has to hurt people to get her goal. But she also has a tragic backstory that explains her motives, as if to give the character some depth and sympathy, even though she has done terrible things to people for a while. The film obviously wants the villain to be an Annie Wilkes type, even though it never comes close to reaching that. But you understand why she is the way she is and why she’s doing these things. The supporting male characters are interesting, only for the fact that they’re pretty much victims of both women emotionally and physically. I won’t give away the secrets here, but you’ll quickly figure out the lies and the truths right away, and you feel bad for both guys. It makes you wonder who are the real victims in this film, which is something this series likes to do with its audience. The narrative has been done before, and way better, but the subplots are juicy enough to keep a mild interest from beginning to end.
The direction by Emma Tammi is fine. There’s nothing really special about it, honestly. It’s not a flashy film or visually exciting, even though DELIVERED is quite beautiful and polished to look at. The film allows the gorier moments to be seen more than previous installments, which is nice. There is one moment involving an animal that some people may find disturbing, even though only the aftermath is shown in vivid detail. And while there are moments and edits that pretty much rip off MISERY throughout, at least they’re kept enough to a minimum to allow the film to be its own thing. It’s a good effort but nothing really stands out visually to really discuss. But it has a great pace and flows well.
The acting is pretty good as well. Natalie Paul is good as Valerie, the pregnant victim who plays with different aspects of her upcoming motherhood. Her portrayal of discontent with her upcoming motherhood is believable, slowly leading towards a credible moment when she realizes she does care about her baby when both of them are in danger. Paul gives a quiet, yet powerful performance until the final act where she gets to let loose. I’d like to see her in a role where she can get to do more than just play a victim in a thriller.
Probably the biggest name in terms of actors is Tina Majorino as the troubled Jenny. Best known for her work in CORRINA, CORRINA, NAPOLEON DYNAMITE and Veronica Mars, Majorino puts her spin on Kathy Bates’ performance from MISERY. Majorino plays Jenny as sweet and timid at first, but Majorino always lets in that something is off about her character. When she does get to snap and be evil, Majorino seems to be enjoying herself. Her mentally unhinged performance is very believable, sharing good moments of tension and chemistry with Natalie Paul. She’s an actress who elevates a project and I thought DELIVERED wouldn’t have worked as well without Majorino.
Overall, DELIVERED is a decent Into the Dark installment that did the best it could to rip off a much better feature in MISERY. The story about a mentally unhinged woman kidnapping a pregnant woman to force her into labor and steal her baby is pure soap opera, but it’s a story I could actually buy happening in real life. And while the characters have interesting moments and the secrets they carry are fairly predictable yet welcomed, the film is too busy trying to emulate a much better film and looks lesser for it unfortunately - especially when the film doesn’t have any shame stealing certain shots and violent moments that has made MISERY a pop culture classic for 30 years. The direction is fairly pedestrian with no real interesting visuals, but the film is well paced and edited. And DELIVERED doesn’t hide its violence, especially during the film’s final act that may be disturbing to some. The performances by both Natalie Paul and Tina Majorino work, mainly because they have slightly deep characters they can play with, while sharing some nice tension and chemistry with one another to elevate a narrative that has been done better. Not my favorite Into the Dark installment, but one of the better ones in my opinion - mainly for the performances and its subtlety in terms of the subject matter. If you ever wanted a film like MISERY, but a Lifetime version with a pregnant woman instead of an injured author, then check DELIVERED out.