Delusion (2017) (Review)

Delusion, a micro-budgeted feature-length from writer, director and producer Christopher Di Nunzio is a deliberately slow and brooding musing on mental health, executed in a rather smart and absorbing way indeed. Clocking in at only 85 minutes and starring a relatively unknown cast, Di Nunzio's project is a real melting pot of genres, incorporating elements of supernatural horror, thriller, mystery, drama and Neo noir effectively. On the back of a successful festival run that earned the film the runner-up position for Best Guerrilla Film (Feature) alongside a plethora of other accolades, it is now available to rent, buy or stream on Amazon for those wanting to see what the fuss is about. While the film may fall short of brilliance more regularly than one would hope, you cannot fault the sheer enthusiasm, and relative success, of the film-maker bringing his vision into fruition.

Frank Parrillo's (David Graziano) mental health is slowly beginning to mend after the death of his wife. When he supposedly receives a letter from her, three years after her passing, he desperately attempts to move on again. However, when in the presence of a mysterious woman, after crossing paths with a psychic who foreshadows his death and apparently meeting a man whose existence he cannot confirm, Frank realises it is time to confront his demons head on; a choice that could ultimately lead him to a far darker reality.

'Christopher Di Nunzio The Director' is easily Delusion's MVP. Delusion is a masterclass in making the absolute most out of a limited budget, ensuring every last penny counts by continually delivering deliciously dark and alluring visuals, providing a true declaration of Di Nunzio's skill and talent behind the camera. In the post-production, Nunzio amplifies the arresting visuals with some truly efficient editing techniques too, particularly benefitting the more supernatural-inspired elements of the film; in less poised hands, this could look incredibly messy but Nunzio has no problem utilising these techniques confidently, executing them very effectively on screen. Cinematographer Nolan Lee plays a large role in securing an aesthetic that remains absorbing and somewhat hypnotising throughout, with an obvious eye for detail and talent for making the most basic frame one that helps build an eerie atmosphere. Jessica-Lee Van Winkle's make-up is precise and spectacularly detailed, pulling us into the supernatural world we get brief glimpses at, with her tremendous work matched with some lovely, mysterious costume designs. Everything about this film visually is truly impressive and enthralling, easily becoming a stylistic gem that deserves to be marvelled at.

Coming undone slightly, the script is a tad on the clunky side in certain moments, appearing somewhat stifled by unnatural and awkward dialogue - particularly when delivered by some of the less experienced cast members. Some performers appear to struggle delivering the supernatural, hexing rhetoric in a meaningful or believable way, appearing somewhat uncomfortable in doing so. Where the script excels though is, bizarrely, in the subtle and considerate approach to its thematic content; Delusion's intricate and complex portrayal of mental health is a thought-provoking one, with the metaphors mastered skilfully, accentuated superbly by the top-notch editing, filming and visuals. To Di Nunzio The Writer's credit, he crafts a genuinely substantial backstory for Frank, managing to balance building a world for the audience to be dropped into and one that appears partially blank, with revelations shading Frank's life over the course of the film. On the whole, the script is hit and miss, but thankfully swings to the former more regularly; a little tightening here and there is required, and it would make significant improvements.

One element that is likely to play a huge factor regarding how you favour this film is its pacing; to some, it will be a difficult slog, tedious and monotonous and without the fast-paced thrills you may be in search of; for others, it will be something of an absorbing exercise in subdued film-making, caring more for atmosphere than thrills and screams. I can see both sides of the argument and I genuinely understand and sympathise with the conflicting opinions, somewhat sitting on the fence myself. It is clear that the decision for a slow-burner is a deliberate one rather than accidental, with that resolve alleviating some of the issues with it. It certainly helps create an atmospheric and absorbing piece of film, playing into genre conventions satisfyingly. That doesn't mean that it always effective though, with the film unfortunately failing to maintain your interest during its middle stretch, drifting into moments of dubiety. No one can be blamed for that so to speak, as that is dialled down almost entirely to the viewer and their personal tastes; this sedated pacing was not completely to my taste but that doesn't mean you cannot recognise the advantages of the set-up and the moments where a relaxed pacing is benefitted.

Delusion aims high and while it may fall short every now and then, one cannot fault the talent and passion involved in bringing this supernatural horror-thriller-mystery hybrid onto our screens, delivering a promising distillation of themes and genres that hits more often than it misses. Di Nunzio's blurring of reality and dreams offers an obscure but developed insight into mental health, portraying this theme in an intricate and complex way, seldom considered before as inventively and accurately in a horror film. It is startling that this film, in all its beauty, was made on such a small budget, impressing in that its scope always exceeds its scale. On the whole, Delusion is a restrained, proficient piece of surrealism cinema that combines genres terrifically. Most people will either love it or hate it; sympathising with each viewpoint and looking at it on a more analytical level, I land somewhere more in the middle - but it swings upwards for the beauty contained within the feature film, allowing for a new found appreciation for the surrealism genre.


Summary: What Delusion lacks in scale and script work, it makes up for in scope, themes and aesthetics, crafting a generally effective feature-length that succeeds by borrowing from a number of genres and supplying terrific visuals.