By Andrew Buckner
Rating: ***** out of *****.
Director Christopher Di Nunzio’s neo-noir horror opus, Delusion (2016), is a masterful stylistic showcase. Released through Creepy Kid Productions, this is an old-fashioned psychological portrait with touches of the occult. Likewise, it is a lesson in the power and potency of subtly and restraint. Di Nunzio’s upcoming undertaking comes together so ingeniously because it draws us in with its mystery. This is expertly teased with the on-going question of what exactly is going on with the lead, Frank (in an enactment by David Graziano which is remarkable, credible and continually watchable). We find ourselves peering through the tiniest of details trying, must as our protagonist himself must be doing, to sort out what is physical and what is nightmare. This, enthrallingly, takes up most of the feature. Yet, it plays with the imagination incredibly well throughout. Di Nunzio leaves so much to the seat of our thoughts that one cannot help but stand in admiration of how skillfully fashioned the entire endeavor remains.
These sentiments are eluded to, after an ominous and brief credit sequence, with a commencing shot of a woman’s eye. This calls to mind the climactic moments of the legendary shower murder sequence of Lila Crane (Janet Leigh) in Alfred Hitchcock’s quintessential tale of murder and madness, Psycho (1960). For the rest of the meticulously paced, mesmerizing and impeccably structured eighty-five minute length of the affair, Di Nunzio’s bravura behind the lens vividly recalls the aforementioned cinematic maestro. This is incorporated with a dash of early David Cronenberg (1975’s Shivers, 1977’s Rabid) and Brian De Palma (1973’s Sisters, 1978’s The Fury). The previously stated comparison is most striking in the tensely orchestrated concluding fifteen minutes. This inspiration is mixed in to make this unique blend of fear all the more savory.
With some of Di Nunzio’s earlier works paralleling other silver screen savants, such as he did with Ingmar Bergman and Martin Scorsese in A Life Not to Follow (2015), such a resemblance only heightens how impressive Di Nunzio’s talent and multi-faceted handling of his various genre turns remains. Still, his style is distinctly his own. Di Nunzio is undoubtedly an independent moviemaker to be watched. He is a name that all fellow admirers of cinema will be well-acquainted with in the immediate future. This is, of course, if they are not already aware of this great name looming on the horizon.
All of this is also visible in the manner Di Nunzio composes a shot. This adds to the proficiency at hand. It also gives the arrangement even more of a visual allure. A design like this makes this ever-intriguing puzzle box of a flick all the more enchantingly cryptic. These physiognomies are also observable in Di Nunzio’s awe-inspiring framing. It all comes together to create a pulse-pounding example of showmanship. We also witness these components in the anything but straight-forward manner in which Di Nunzio’s equally intelligent and striking screenplay is constructed. Ultimately, Delusion is as much thriller as it is art.
Di Nunzio chronicles Frank Parrillo. In the exertion’s first ten minutes he receives a letter from his wife, Isabella (in a marvelous performance by Carlyne Fournier). What is odd about this, and also instantly attention-garnering on the spectator’s side, is that she died three years prior. While recovering from this event with the support of his nephew, Tommy (in a depiction by Justin Thibault that is beautifully rendered and multi-layered), Frank tries to figure out what the written piece signifies. In the process he meets the enigmatic Mary (an incredible turn by Jami Tennille). Their mutual scars initially appear to be a point of healing between the two. All of this shapes a confrontation of Frank’s own personal doubts and fears. Yet, he is haunted by a male figure whose existence is questionable. Simultaneously, he is further plagued by a psychic, Lavinia (in a representation by Irina Peligrad that is certainly compelling). Her own premonitions tell Frank to stay away from the new love in his life. Amid these incidents, Frank must discern what is fact and what is fiction. This is before his time and chances to do so have vanquished.
The story is riveting. It is also, much like some of the undertones presented herein, spellbindingly surreal unto itself. Such is indefinitely punctuated and made all the more captivating in the incredible, haunting manner in which it is told. Frederic Maurerhofer’s music is also eloquent and unsettling. This suits the atmosphere of the piece tremendously well. The same can be said for Nolan Yee’s eye-catching, gorgeously honed cinematography. Di Nunzio’s editing is skillful. This item assists greatly in giving the configuration its classic build. Arsen Bortnik’s special effects mirror the legitimacy Di Nunzio strives for spectacularly. They are a welcome distraction from the cartoonish computer generated imagery which, sadly, dominates so many motion pictures of our day. Additionally, Jessica-Lee Van Winkle’s make-up in this particular department is wonderful.
Those responsible for the sound heard here offer us a demonstration of brilliance. Consisting of Carlo J. Barbieri III, Laura Grose and Christopher Lee, their collective contribution is crisp and ear-catching. Di Nunzio also supplies, along with the other pleasing apparatuses mentioned early, dialogue that cracks with believability. The situations that are bestowed upon us throughout align themselves to this facet with astonishing precision.
Moreover, the rest of cast fares just as well as those mentioned above. Kris Salvi is magnificent as Grayson. Renee Lawrie is exceptional as Rose. Jessy Rowe as Wendy, Christine Perla as Catarina and Ronnie Oberg as Ronnie all provide grand interpretations of their respective personas as well.
Set to be released on October 31st, Di Nunzio has crafted an exceptional example of the strength of the understated. It’s deeply impressed, poetic imagery is beautifully, terrifying issued. This is without a single exhibition of the various clichés and cold- shoulder to characterization which often takes over the category of fright. Di Nunzio keeps Frank’s plight and inner-wars at the forefront of the project. This adds heart to the proceedings. It also demonstrates a dramatic intensity that blends with the more outright suspenseful elements sweepingly. This makes the attempt resonate immensely. It is as if we are quietly walking alongside Frank throughout the entirety of the venture. This is as the wrenching chain of otherworldly events, which gradually encompass the plot, sweep over us. Consequently, we find ourselves absolutely amazed and intrigued throughout the course of this mesmerizing opus. Such is all the more reason that Di Nunzio’s latest, which was shot entirely in the state of Massachusetts, is a rich filmic experience. It is one which will prove worthy of many future viewings and potentially buried insights. This is as we return to the material in fascination of the craftsmanship at all technical levels as well in admiration of the quiet intensity and intricacy of the narrative. Di Nunzio has erected a tour de force. For fellow cinephiles: this is essential viewing. Delusion is a magnum opus of the highest order.
The official Facebook page for Delusion can be found here.