*. The movie that calls into question the sanity of its main character, thus forcing us to wonder how much, if any, of what we see is “really” happening, has quite a long history. It probably got started with The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, but never went away all through the Gaslight dramas of the ’40s and their more convoluted Hammer descendants in the ’60s (Nightmare, for example). And it’s continued right up to the present day, with movies like Unsane and Delirium.
*. The thing about such a movie as this is that it makes you wonder if it’s worth complaining about all the improbabilities in the plot or whether you should just shrug at them because none of it is real anyway and the whole story, or at least some large part of the story, is just the main character imagining things. This is especially the case in a movie where ultimately determining what is real and not real is left open or ambiguous.
*. So the plot here has it that Tom (Topher Grace) has just been released from a psychiatric hospital, where he’s been for the last twenty years after being found guilty of murdering a girl when he was a kid. He has to spend the next thirty days in his father’s mansion under house arrest before he will be allowed to go free. Since his father just killed himself a few days earlier, he has the house to himself. But after his parole officer (Patricia Clarkson) takes away his meds he starts seeing things.
*. None of this makes sense, but is any of it real anyway? Do the police really think Tom can make it to the phone, or even hear the phone, from anywhere in such a massive house in only ten rings? What if he’s swimming? Did Tom kill the girl twenty years ago, or did his brother? Does his brother actually show up at the house? Does Tom even have a brother? Does he have a parole officer? Does a good-looking young woman really show up to deliver his groceries and immediately fall in love with him? Can he really not tell, just from picking it up, that the box of cereal is empty?
*. Whatever the reality of the other plot elements, I think Tom should have at least known about the cereal. After a while I didn’t care much about the rest of what was going on, especially as things became more and more fanciful and grotesque. The underground vault was an interesting set, but it was the only thing that caught my attention. There’s a hint of something getting started between Grace and Clarkson that had potential but it’s immediately dropped (and how Clarkson got star billing for such a small part is a mystery to me).
*. I’ve now seen two movies directed by Dennis Iliadis (this and the remake of The Last House on the Left), and neither was any good. He can’t even make the dog look threatening here. I wonder if our paths will ever cross again.
*. Delirium is a movie that dares you to like it, and I didn’t feel like taking it up on its offer. If you’re going to make a movie that asks what is real and what is fantasy you have to do it in such a way that the audience cares. For what it’s worth, I didn’t think much of what was happening was real, but I also don’t see how it mattered.