Delusion is a film that visibly strains under the limitations of its low budget. It desperately wants to be the sort of tense, psychological madhouse that will leave people as disoriented as its protagonist, but the resources aren’t quite there to make it work. While there is definitely a degree of talent in Christopher Di Nunzio’s direction, there is only just so much that his modest project can achieve, and those limits make Delusion a less than satisfying film.
Frank (David Graziano) is a widower who, three years after his wife’s mysterious death, receives a letter in the mail from her that provides him with some degree of closure. Shortly thereafter, he forms a tense attraction to a mysterious woman, and is meanwhile plagued by strange visions of a man wearing a red tie and a woman in skull make-up. As Frank struggles to figure out what is real, his mysterious lover may just be leading him to a darker reality.
What Di Nunzio seems to be shooting for is a sort of Hitchcockian descent into madness, but unfortunately he doesn’t have a lead actor who rises to the occasion to portray the emotions necessary for that to work. Graziano is most skilled in naturalistic scenes where he has casual chemistry with the other actor, but when that chemistry isn’t there the dialogue feels so obviously scripted as to completely break the film’s immersion. He also doesn’t emote much at all as characters—including his dead wife—appear and disappear into his field of vision. What is supposed to be scary and unsettling is lamely banal with Frank as our audience surrogate, primarily because he never seems more than slightly perturbed by the horrifying or unsettling things that happen to him.
It’s only further unfortunate then that the cinematography and overall level of production leave much to be desired in order to convey that unsettling atmosphere. There are moments of inspiration—such as a dream sequence edited in a Lynchian time-jumping manner, or an unsettling instance of being watched in a park—but on the whole, the camera is static and pulled too far away from the action. This isn’t to say that the film is entirely without shot variety, but there isn’t much visual storytelling being done to make this anything more than a relatively dull film to look at. The worst aspect is certainly the lighting, which appears to have been entirely natural in every location at which the film was shot. This doesn’t do much to make the performers look their best, nor does it make what’s supposed to be happening in darker scenes very clear to the audience, even in moments when we’re clearly supposed to be able to follow the action.
Overall, Delusion gets a lot of credit for effort, as it has an interesting premise and a potentially interesting end result, assuming the ambiguity of the ending was intentional. However, it’s not the sort of success that will stick in the viewer’s mind after it’s over and it certainly won’t propel the filmmakers into a higher tier of success that would allow them the resources to craft a better product. The film is available on Amazon, so if you are an inclined member of Amazon Prime, Delusion is the kind of film that the charitable sort might put on in the background in order to give the film’s auteur a higher view count, and hopefully that would give Di Nunzio enough clout to make a film with the budget to achieve his aspirations. But if you’re looking for a movie to creep you out, or even just to pass the time, while you could do much worse, you could also do much better.