'Delirium': Film Review

Delirium Still 1 - Publicity - H 2018
Courtesy of Martini Films
The creepy setting's the thing.

A group of friends venture into a supposedly haunted house in Johnny Martin's low-budget horror film.

Johnny Martin has directed action vehicles for such high-profile stars as Nicolas Cage (Vengeance: A Love Story) and Al Pacino (Hangman). But those actors' performances pale in comparison to the brilliant starring turn by the supremely creepy-looking Dunsmuir-Hellman Estate in Delirium, Martin's low-budget horror film about a group of friends venturing into a supposedly haunted mansion. The historic Oakland, California, house's previous credits include Burnt Offerings, Phantasm and So I Married an Axe Murderer, and if awards were given to atmospheric movie locations, it would be sure to win.

Unfortunately, settings alone don't make a movie, and this cliché-ridden effort feels indistinguishable from the countless similarly themed horror films that have preceded it. Delirium fails to induce the feeling that its title promises.

The rudimentary storyline concerns a group of generic-looking young men who don't exactly live up to their lurid moniker, The Hell Gang. As an initiation ritual, prospective member Eddie (Ian Bramberg) is instructed to venture onto the porch of a legendary local estate said to be haunted by the ghosts of the members of a family who were murdered there. Eddie never makes it back, so the gang has to head to the house and go inside to look for him, although they aren't thrilled by the prospect.

"I can't go up to the nursery, I can't do it," one of them protests.

On the way to the house, they endure a fright which turns out to be have been engineered by one of their own having a laugh. "That was a dick move!" one of them protests (a sentiment with which audience members could well agree). Upon entering the rundown mansion, they experience a series of horrific events including the presence of such ghosts as a nude woman taking a bath and a man who clearly died from having his throat cut. Foremost among them is the formidable Lady Brandt (Elena Sanchez), who shrieks, "Nobody takes my family!" with the same conviction of Patrick Swayze warning, "Nobody puts Baby in the corner" in Dirty Dancing.

Director Martin, a veteran stuntman and stunt coordinator (his credits include Titanic), orchestrates some halfway decent scares. But too much of the proceedings feels amateurish, including the ghosts who look like the amateur performers in a haunted house Halloween attraction. The creepiest plot element, involving a vintage photograph that reveals some surprising camera subjects, might have been more effective if it hadn't already been used to better effect in Kubrick's The Shining. That it took no less than four screenwriters to come up with this simplistic concoction is far scarier than anything in the film itself.

Although Delirium isn't totally photographed in found-footage style, there's enough of it to be annoying. It makes one long for the days in which horror films didn't feature characters stupid enough to spend time shooting video footage when they should be running for their lives.

Production companies: Martini Films, HG Productions, Destiny Road
Distributor: Gravitas Ventures
Cast: Mike C. Manning, Griffin Freeman, August Roads, Ryan Pinkston, Seth Austin, Elena Sanchez

Director-producer: Johnny Martin
Screenwriters: Francisco Castro, Johnny Martin, Lisa Clemens, Andy Chen

Executive producers: Debbie Martinelli Swallow, Paul Mangold, Gordon Galvan
Director of photography: David Stragmeister

Editor: Jason A. Payne
Composer: Mathieu Carratier

Casting: Melissa Wulfemeyer-Valenzuela

88 minutes