Pregnancy and motherhood can be a blessing for many, but for some it can be a curse as explored in Emma Tammi’s (The Wind) latest installment of Blumhouse and Hulu’s Into The Dark series: Delivered. In celebration of Mother’s Day, it is a different approach to the joys of childbirth and parenthood. From its harrowing cold open to a bloody third act showdown, Tammi’s episode is a viable story that breaches traditional tales of motherhood.
Combining prenatal duplicity, dependency, and the right amount of obsession, May’s maternal episode is a precious surprise made with generous genre instinct. Anticipation builds gently, performances charge the narrative with spirit, and the heavy weight of dark material is swaddled in careful feeling. Delivered is a mature entry into the holiday horror anthology that captures not only the more unpleasant sides of pregnancy, but the vicious danger that hides behind a friendly smile.
“Delivered is a free-range fun ride with no stop signs in sight complete with one of those alerting Baby On Board bumper stickers.”
Starring Natalie Paul (The Sinner), Tina Majorino (Napoleon Dynamite), Michael Cassidy (The O.C.), and Micah Joe Parker (Road To The Well), Delivered follows an apprehensive new mom, Val, who is expecting her first child with her estranged ex-boyfriend. While she is surrounded by a supportive partner, resources, and care, Val can’t help but feel indifferent towards her pregnancy and upcoming role as a mother. During a mommy yoga session, she happens upon Jenny. Val’s newfound friend is average and sweet, but her nefarious plans for Val and her unborn baby are anything but nurturing.
Writer Dirk Blackman (Underworld: Rise Of The Lycans) pens a captivating narrative that creates a comprehensive joyride from its fertile objectives. At first glance Delivered may seem like a road often traveled, but Tammi’s multi-purpose direction and Blackman’s nuanced writing keep the episode fresh and original with a fitting amount of gore. Delivered is a free-range fun ride with no stop signs in sight complete with one of those alerting Baby On Board bumper stickers.
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“Boy or girl?” is the quintessential question many pregnant women are asked by onlookers (and touchers) as soon as that little bump appears and it is one Val finds herself ignoring for more reason than one. Delivered presents a competent, relatable theme of motherhood that you won’t find glamorized like it typically is on other outlets. The story’s heroine is real and vulnerable as she learns to share her body, space, and emotions with the separate being growing inside of her. Responsibility and trauma layer a connective tissue within the complexities of motherhood as Val not only struggles with her future destination but her current situation with Jenny. Halves become whole and individuals at odds over the possession of life make for an oddly tonal and harrowing combination. Told with simple, yet forceful coherence and charge, Delivered bears shocking sequences and unexpected relations bound to grab the attention of any viewer. After all, when it comes to motherhood, you’re allowed to be surprised.
As far as functions of the human body go, pregnancy is deemed as one of the most natural and prime behaviors made possible through a woman’s anatomy. It’s celebrated as a beautiful thing, life giving life, but Delivered portrays child-bearing in a sobering horrific fashion. As a soon-to-be new mom, protagonist Val is struggling to find the peaceful appeal of her pregnancy. Her tough go at it is common, yet not often explored which adds an interesting approach to the terror she faces internally and externally. The presence and absence of male roles in her life temper the pregnant environment she shares with others and incorporates alternative representation with organic relations. Given Val’s perspective, everything from the jelly of a sonogram to the swell of her womb is a daunting indicator of the motherhood she hesitates to embrace. The animosity she feels towards motherhood is palpable and nuanced. Delivered does not shy away from the scary realities of pregnancy, but instead utilizes them as steady anchors of natural horror.
As Val battles baby brain and the absence of her own identity, the impending doom of Jenny enters her life. While Jenny is everything in a future mother that Val is not, the synthesis between the two characters is such a perfect contrast from the get-go. They find camaraderie in entering the mommy club together, but the intentions and motives of Jenny are a lot more different than they seem. In the essence of films like Inside and Prevenge, Jenny is not the person that she seems to be and wants something from the expecting mother. The sinister turn of events also creates an interesting yin and yang throughout Delivered. The space that Val finds herself trapped in, like motherhood, is serene and gentle, but there’s something ugly and scary working within. Her will to survive has transformed from an original state of hesitation and ignorance of her pregnancy to a nature of relentless protection. Tammi and Blackman have crafted a compelling contrast that sees its way through the film in its themes, characters, tone, and even setting. Delivered is safely tailored to motherly horror, but it’s a distressing experience that greatly joins and distinguishes between the two.
Jenny is an exceptional villain as she is sympathetic, authentic, and completely off the rails as soon as her true behaviors manifest. Tina Majorino takes on a role that steals each scene and magnificently channels the unstoppable powerhouse that is Annie Wilkes in Misery. Everything from her observant eyes to her manic episodes and lash out tantrums brings a sense of intensity to the horror that unfolds. In one scene she is chipper and slightly annoying and the next she is brutal and scheming. Majorino really puts on an impressive performance and elevates Delivered as a special entry of the Into The Dark series. Jenny’s complicated backstory and reasoning draws in a factor of emotion, but her wicked acts push Val into a fight for not only her life and the life of her unborn baby. The character’s hot and cold demeanor brings fun surprises to the table and always keeps you guessing, will she or won’t she? Supporting the awesome set of contrast in Delivered, the final act places mommy against mommy in each corner. Only one can win and, all the way through the very last minutes of the end, you’re never really sure who is going to be victorious.
Downward Facing Dead
Motherly instinct is a primal and dangerous element that can withstand any foe intending harm. On the other hand, the acting of birthing a human and changes made to a woman’s body can be a source of sublime scares. Delivered plays on both notions by combining an appropriate play on body horror and challenging Val’s newfound strength as well as Jenny’s desperation to incorporate entertaining violence throughout the episode. Tammi’s variety of direction, including unique angles and alternating perspectives, allows Delivered to expand on its mostly singular setting. Though it heavily implies isolation and restriction, there are brilliant, fluid techniques at play that create movement and volatile tones. As respective roles take form and the lines between friendship and enemies blur into a test of survival, motherhood seems like the least likely terror Val could face. Dread builds steadily as every mother’s worst nightmare comes to life.
There are moments that will elicit chills, laughs, and maybe even a tear or two. The suspense and thrills are evenly coated by conditioned filmmaking. Tension and uneasiness make up for the lack of gore and instead press matters of the psyche. This is a story meant for all audiences. However, while certain themes are artistically present and guide the story with an able hand, this episode is a tremendous bundle of enjoyable terror. One of the things that really keeps Delivered from becoming too predictable is the story’s ability to throw in subtle surprises that keep the main formula fresh and inviting. While it may not transcend the genre’s ability to turn twists and tricks, it proves that maintaining originality does not necessarily mean inventing the wheel. Strangely, viewers may know what’s coming but are never really prepared. Delivered is a perfect game of what not to expect when you’re expecting.
“Delivered births a heap of pregnancy woes, but packs a punch around some truly natural horror.”
Delivered births a heap of pregnancy woes, but packs a punch around some truly natural horror. The subject matter may be sensitive, especially for any new parent viewers, but the material is handled with fostered guile and applied influence. Val’s will to live and Jenny’s drive to become a mother, no matter the conditions, will bump predictions by bringing two opposite halves into a frightening whole. Speaking to all types of audiences, Delivered is a stable practice in hostility, cohesion, and perseverance. It is available to stream exclusively through Hulu on May 8th, 2020. Happy Mother’s Day!
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? What do you think of Tina Majorino’s performance as the malevolent mommy, Jenny? Let us know your thoughts over on Twitter, Reddit, or in the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook!