For the lack of better words, it's been a labor of love for the past few years for filmmakers Brian Netto and Adam Schindler as they prepare to deliver their debut horror thriller into the world.
Delivery -- directed by Netto, produced by Schindler and co-written by both -- is an unnerving found footage-inspired feature that follows Kyle (Danny Barclay) and his wife Rachel Massey's (Laurel Vail) pregnancy for a reality TV show.
But as strange events begin to occur and the Rachel starts to suspect her unborn child is possessed by an evil spirit, the Massey's blessed event turns into an unspeakable horror. After the initial "episode," the rest of the film is assembled from more than 250 hours of unaired footage.
Netto and Schindler, who made their first film together on VHS as a pair of sixth graders in the St. Paul, Minn., suburb of Woodbury, are preparing to bring Delivery home to the Twin Cities Film Festival Oct. 25. Before that, it played at the Santa Fe Film Festival in New Mexico and at the Sitges Film Festival in Spain. By Halloween, Delivery will have screened at 11 film festivals during the month of October, including a couple dates in the U.K.
Both 35, Netto and Schindler understandably want their movie to be seen by as many people as possible, especially after toiling in the movie business for the past 11 years. But in good conscience, the duo draws the line when it comes to showing Delivery to friends expecting children.
"We always jokingly say, 'Don't come if you're pregnant,' along with a smiley face," Netto, along with Schindler, told me with laugh in a recent call from Los Angeles. "But I steered a friend away in LA who wanted to come to the film to support me, since she was about five months along. I said, 'Don't come. Maybe once the baby is here, or maybe in a couple years, see it.' Maybe we're being overly cautious."
"We don't want it to ruin anybody's experiences with pregnancy," added Schindler, who has a 2-and-1/2 year-old.
Fortunately, none of the festival crowds so have included pregnant women, or at least the very-pregnant ones.
"Unless somebody came that was in the earlier stages of pregnancy, I didn't see anybody," Netto said, almost with a sigh of relief.
Netto and Schindler say they've been thrilled with audiences' responses to the film, since they're reacting the exact way the duo hoped they would. That's because after Delivery starts like the premiere episode of reality show (and staying true to reality form, a very cheesy one at that), it grows into something quite horrifying and unsettling.
"You can tell when an audience is really into it. They're laughing quite a bit at the beginning, which we really love," Netto says. "Then when you get into the middle section, you hear a couple chuckles here and there, but you can also see them getting more uncomfortable and shifting in their seats a little bit because it's taking a darker turn."
Once Delivery gets to its final act, Netto adds, the film "builds with a staccato flow to it."
"It comes and goes and comes and goes -- and we can hear people whispering between the sequences," the director says. "Once we get to the ending, it always garners a very audience loud reaction. We get a thrill from that because it makes up feel that we've nailed everything leading up to it. The stuff leading up has to work before the ending works."
Schindler believes the reactions are strong because it was a mission of his and Netto's to make sure audiences cared about what happens to Kyle and Rachel.
"We didn't want the ending to be a shock for shock value. It had to be something that made sense to the story," Schindler explains. "We had the idea for the ending of the film as soon as we had the beginning. There had to be a reason for the way things turn out the way they do."
Because an unborn child and presumably evil spirit is involved -- along with the fact that the film follows a "found footage" format -- Netto and Schindler are keenly aware that Delivery will be compared to the horror classic Rosemary's Baby and the blockbuster hit Paranormal Activity.
Netto says the reason Delivery works is because it hearkens the sensibilities of both those films, yet is decidedly different in the way the story plays out.
Effectively, Delivery gives birth to a new breed of horror.
"If you do it as a traditional narrative, it's already been done obviously with Rosemary's Baby and other pregnancy horror films," Netto said. "The only way we could make this interesting was to take a different approach. For us, the idea was to make it unlike a horror film at the beginning. The way we shot it -- the performances, the music, everything -- was like producing a very upbeat, family-friendly show. Then we slowly turned it into a psychological horror film. It was unique and interesting for us to do. We had fun bleeding the horror tropes and conventions into something else."
While Delivery is coming out six years after the first Paranormal Activity, Netto and Schindler say the film had nothing to do with the actual inspiration for their film. That's not to say they didn't learn anything from the first Paranormal, however.
"The interesting thing is, we actually started working on Delivery before the original Paranormal was released," Netto recalls. "We wrote the first draft of the film and after that, we saw Paranormal when it came out and said, 'Wow!' We both really love the original film. It gave us a lot of insight into what you could do with a film like that. It was a film that required people to bring their own theories of what was happening, and bringing their own baggage in a way because your mind has to do a lot of heavy-lifting watching the film."
While Delivery debuted at the Los Angeles Film Festival in June and has since played at the Telluride Horror Show in Colorado, Screamfest in Los Angeles and the New Orleans Film Festival, the crowning achievement for Netto and Schindler will come early next year when many more horror fans will get the chance to see the film in theaters.
"We have distribution and it should be coming out the first quarter of next year," Schindler says.
The two can't quite say who the distributor is yet, though, since a formal announcement is forthcoming.
"All we can say is that it will be a limited theatrical release, then it will go VOD and DVD," Netto says. "I expect we'll be able to say something in the next couple of weeks."