Audiences are not often exposed to the harsh realities of pregnancy, but director Emma Tammi is familiar with the sobering facts that accompany motherhood as seen in her debut feature film, The Wind. As a director and producer, Tammi has the experience behind the lens and continues to explore interesting motherly subject matter in her episode of Into The Dark.
Hulu and Blumhouse’s holiday horror anthology series casts a grim horror cloud over a variety of annual celebrations, with Mother’s Day being no exception. Tammi’s episode, Delivered, balances a unique contrast between the desire and the hesitation to give life with outstanding performances from both Tina Majorino as Jenny (Napoleon Dynamite) and Natalie Paul (The Sinner) as Val. As Tammi shares a glimpse into what grew her episode, it is obvious that her craft is nurtured with heavy thought and care.
“I read the script and really fell for it because it felt like a love song, in my mind, to Misery…“
Jessica Rose For Nightmare On Film Street: I am so thrilled to be speaking with you. I really loved Delivered, there’s so much to talk about. I’ve been covering all of Into The Dark and I always ask everybody how they got involved with their episodes. How did you get into directing Delivered and telling this Mother’s Day story with Hulu and Blumhouse?
Emma Tammi: I actually co-directed a documentary with Blumhouse TV about the 2016 election that came out at the top of 2017. I’ve known the executive team over there for quite some time and have been such a big fan of theirs. I was so excited to find the next thing to do together. I think once Delivered rolled around they might have thought of me in relation to The Wind because there are some similar themes that were cropping up in this episode of Into The Dark. I read the script and really fell for it because it felt like a love song, in my mind, to Misery which was one of my favorite movies growing up. It’s got a very similar structure. We nod to it a lot. So it was just such a fun one to reunite with the Blumhouse team on.
NOFS: I really liked it and it did. Delivered is similar to Misery, but not so outright. It’s pretty original and it’s like you said, it was not under there. Tina Majorino was just phenomenal and terrifying.
ET: Absolutely. I couldn’t agree more. That was important to us as well. It did feel like we had an original spin to it and we were exploring some new performances and some new themes that felt fresh and something that people would feel like watching in 2020. In a weird 2020.
NOFS: I was going to ask, is it just a happy circumstance that there were a lot of themes of isolation going on in Delivered? I definitely felt that in this episode. This kind of carries on a more restricted, at-home story that just so happens to fall in a weird year.
ET: Completely. It was a total coincidence, but yes, one of our lead actresses is locked in the house for most of the movie and can’t get out. I think we can all relate to that cabin fever at the moment, even though Val’s circumstances were extreme and hopefully more escalated than most of our own circumstances at the moment.
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NOFS: Absolutely. Did you find it hard to film? It is a limited cast. It was just the two, but I felt like there was so much movement. Can you speak to how you expanded on those two characters and that house? Is there any kind of craft to it?
ET: That’s great to hear. Once we settled on our location, we just really wanted to figure out ways that we could maximize the space. Even though the majority of the Delivered takes place in one house, we really wanted to make sure that the mood of it kept reinvesting itself. It keeps getting deeper and deeper into the horror space as the movie goes. I think the tone of the house also shifts alongside the characters’ own journeys. Logistically and in relation to the movement that you just spoke to, we just really wanted to make sure that it didn’t get boring, it didn’t feel like we were stuck in this place with the characters and that it didn’t lack a dynamic quality.
We really tried to use all the rooms and just create the sense of both of the characters’ interior headspace and their own worlds while also finding the scenes where they’re interacting and meeting each other as well. That’s a very inarticulate way of saying they each have their private time and then they have their scenes together which builds intention. I think that just allowed us to really do some different things with the house in terms of their private space and their interactions.
“[…] so much of this movie is grappling with the fears that women have before they become mothers.”
NOFS: I love that. I really picked up on the contrast between the two characters. Now that I’m looking at the space a little bit more, that’s also part of the contrast. That’s really cool. As far as the performances go, like I said, Tina was amazing. The themes are kind of heavy, but they’re really presented super well and the performances enhance that along with your direction. Was there any part of the subject matter that you felt was a challenge for you? As a woman or if you are a mother, that subject matter better can be a little challenging. Did you find that difficult to portray?
ET: It did. I’m not a mother yet and I think that so much of this movie is grappling with the fears that women have before they become mothers. It’s really relatable, even to me having not gone through the experience of having had kids yet. I hoped it would also connect with men or people who didn’t necessarily think they were going to have kids because just this idea of bringing a new life into the world that you are then responsible for protecting and taking care of, growing a good human being, that feels like a very universal feeling that we can all tap into. There’s also the sacrifices that one makes in the wake of that. One of the things that Val is definitely grappling with is her own identity: Does she even want to be a mom? Does she relate to that? Does she relate to the being that’s growing inside her body? That’s her journey for sure.
So it is heavy material and I think that we were still trying to make a movie that would be fun for people to watch and would be a harrowing ride, but still one that you want to go on. When the heavier themes started to crop up, we all grappled with it in different ways and we were taken by surprise with it sometimes as well. We just processed that and talked about it and whatnot because the themes did feel really rooted in reality in a way that I think can cut a little deeper than if it’s just another slasher film that’s not engaging.
NOFS: I feel like I connected to it and I related to it really well because when I look back to when I was younger, I wanted to be a mom so bad and now that I am more of an adult with more of an identity, I’m more aware. Do I want to do this right now? Do I want to jump into this? We all have our identity. What do we sacrifice and are we ready to sacrifice that? I thought that was different and a little more fresh than what we usually get as far as motherhood goes.
ET: Thank you. There’s this pressure that we as women feel. We’re given baby dolls when we’re still babies and we’re really primed to feel like we need to be mothers and should want to be moms. I think it’s a more complicated relationship with motherhood for a lot of women. We’re trying to tap into that as well, both with Valerie and Jenny. Even though Jenny knows that she wants a baby more than anything, that’s also a byproduct of what she has grown up being told to want. It’s interesting to look at all the sides of expectations around motherhood. With some of our opening scenes with Val going to her Mommy and Me breathing yoga class, she’s not sure of all the things that the other moms in the room are feeling. We go into some of these things with more caution and trepidation with some guilt wrapped around it.
“…there is this sense of friendship at the beginning […] Then, obviously, that relationship gets completely flipped on its head and takes a much darker turn.”
NOFS: The best ingredient. Now, I love the ending. Delivered never went where I anticipated it to go. Everything was a surprise. I thought that was really great. I know it has hints of Misery in it, but are there any other films or artists who influence you as a director?
ET: So many people. I mean Misery was a big comp in terms of the structure and the Kathy Bates character, but certainly other films influenced us as well. I was looking at mother! a lot during this one actually, Darren Aronofsky’s film, in terms of the aesthetics that we were going for with our house and the characters. Oh my gosh, there were so many. I was looking at Persona a lot, an old Ingmar Bergman film, where his frames around the two female stars of his film are so insanely beautiful in their composition, but also haunting and terrifying.
I simply wanted to try to achieve some of that with Jenny and Val because there is this sense of friendship at the beginning, or at least what might turn into a friendship, the budding of those two females connecting over motherhood, but also over their fears of motherhood. Then, obviously, that relationship gets completely flipped on its head and takes a much darker turn. I think we wanted to really, with our composition, try to you know reflect the themes of both friendship and frenemies so Persona was a great comp for that. I was also constantly looking to David Fincher’s frames for this one.
NOFS: You definitely had that in there. You also have so many different perspectives in Delivered and I think that that’s really great as far as the camera goes. You’re showing all these different frames, you’re showing the different sides, like the men’s side. I think that’s impressive, to have so much variety going on in there, even though the center is on those two women and their relationship and motherhood. There is a lot that goes on in Delivered like it does in real life, which is brilliant.
ET: Thank you!
NOFS: Do you have anything else that you’re working on that you can share?
ET: Who knows how and when production is going to get back up on its feet. I’m certainly really excited to see how this next year plays out in that respect. I am working on development on a number of projects, some in the genres space and some not. I’m also working on some podcasts, which actually feels like a really great thing to be working on right now while everyone’s in this stay-at-home place. I’m trying to figure out workarounds to get actors to be able to record from home. We actually did that for our ADR sessions for Delivered, which was so great that we were able to make that happen even while everyone’s working remotely at the moment.
I directed a podcast called The Left Right Game, which QCODE just put out about a month and a half ago. The seventh episode just premiered and that was with Tessa Thompson and a great ensemble cast and it’s been so fun to listen to that and listen to other podcasts right now. I definitely feel inspired to be doing more of those right now. That one actually just got picked up by Amazon to go to a TV series, so it’s fun that podcasts are experiencing a live-action life after their podcast life. It’s a fun one. I highly recommend it.
“Who knows how and when production is going to get back up on its feet. I’m certainly really excited to see how this next year plays out in that respect.”
Emma Tammi’s Into The Dark installment, Delivered is currently streaming on Hulu. Are you watching the second season of Hulu and Blumhouse’s Into The Dark anthology series? What do you think of May’s Mother’s Day episode, Delivered? Let us know your thoughts over on Twitter, Reddit, or in the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook!