By: Kayla Caldwell
You know that moment, when a movie reveals just enough that you feel like you're in on a secret. You don't exactly know where things are going, but you know more than the protagonist, so the suspenseful anxiety has begun.
Emma Tammi, director of May's Into the Dark installment, DELIVERED, knows a thing or two about slowly doling out that back story until you've gone too far, and now it's too late to turn back. We were lucky enough to be able to chat with her about all things DELIVERED, film influences, and what viewers should take away from this Mother's Day special feature.
How did you get involved with Hulu and Into the Dark?
Emma Tammi: I had worked with Blumhouse TV, several years back, on a documentary about the 2016 election (Election Day: Lens Across America). I had been hoping and looking for something that we might be able to do again together. I’m such a big fan of theirs, and this episode came along, and I really dug the script, and a lot of the themes that the episode was exploring. And we were off to the races.
Were there any directors, movies, or characters that inspired you when working on DELIVERED? I know Natalie [Paul] talked about watching Misery.
Emma Tammi: Misery was a huge influence, and we were really trying to tip our hat in the most respectful way to that film throughout the shoot. But, also try to find some unique spins on that story. Rosemary’s Baby was a huge influence, and there were a lot of other aesthetic influences.
I was talking to our cinematographer, Lyn Moncrief, about Ingmar Bergman’s Persona from day one, and you know, all the way through to our color grade. I was really referencing Aronofsky’s Mother! so many different directors that we were looking to as influences, but I would definitely say Rosemary’s Baby and Misery were our primary sources of inspiration.
Tina [Majorino] does a great job of capturing the vibe of Annie Wilkes - the sweetness and the insanity.
Emma Tammi: Totally, and embodying all of that sweetness and all of that terror within a single performance is astonishing, and I thought that Tina just nailed it. She had all of that nuance and complexity just effortlessly pour out of her. I really bought her as a sweet, you know, young mother-to-be that could connect with another new mom at a yoga class, like they do. But I also bought her as someone capable of the most terrible human acts, by the end of the film. So, I mean, she just - she can do it all.
Are you a true crime fan?
Emma Tammi: I am! I love true crime.
I know there have been a few cases of women trying to steal other women’s babies, etc.
Emma Tammi: You’re so right, and I felt vaguely aware of that before going into production, and then during production, specific cases would come up - whether it was one of the cast or one of the crew had read about a real-life case - and I have to say, that while we were making this I had to tune that out a little bit.
As fascinating as I find that in general, I felt so connected to the material, that I felt like if we were actually depicting a real mom, in this horrific situation, I almost couldn’t handle that. It’s really interesting, because I think I had to divorce myself from the possibility that this could be someone’s real experience, while we were doing it. And yet, we were really trying to make a realistic, grounded film, in the wake of these extreme circumstances.
Something that I noticed, that I thought was interesting, is even though there are other characters in DELIVERED, it’s really only about Val and Jenny.
Emma Tammi: We were trying to feel a deep sense of connection, and really get into their POVs. Because of that, the supporting characters, still felt like they were being experienced through the two women. That felt like an important thing to aim for.
Another scene that sticks out is when Jenny pulls the car into the barn, and you see all those other cars, too. It’s not a big, dramatic, scene, but you question, how many times has she done this?
Emma Tammi: Oh, I’m so glad that landed. We were definitely trying to create some moments where, visually, we were letting you into a bigger story than what we were even playing out in the scenes. I think those little hints to her backstory and her crimes being so much more extensive than we were even seeing, was a really fun thing to play with.
I know when I’m watching some kind of crime story, it’s always the most interesting when you find out the backstory, why the person is doing what they’re doing.
Emma Tammi: Yeah, and, as an audience member, I want to see a more satisfying answer than, you know, “Oh, he’s a psycho or she’s a psycho.” It was really important for us to feel like Jenny had a backstory that we could understand at least enough to realize she has become who she has become because of these past experiences. And it wasn’t just because she went off the rails for no reason.
I’m not saying those are justifiable experiences, or that her actions are justifiable because of her experiences, but we wanted to have her feel complete and whole, even in her trauma. For me, again, as an audience member, that makes the scares even scarier, you know?
Were there any scenes that were particularly fun or challenging to shoot?
Emma Tammi: It was really fun to shoot the action-heavy sequences. I love stunt choreography, and it feels like, similar to dance choreography to me, and I always lean into those days when we have them. There weren’t a ton on this one, but we had so much fun with them. The cast really got into it as well. Everyone wanted to do as much as they could, practically.
There was one day where we were doing kind of a car chase sequence, so that was new territory for me, which was super fun. I think a daily highlight was trying to figure out a shot or the setup that felt new and fresh to the film for that day, since we were in this one location for the majority of the shoot.
What do you want the takeaway from DELIVERED to be?
Emma Tammi: Well, I don’t think there’s a moral to take away. I hope this made people laugh a little, and cringe a little, and close their eyes a little. I think if you feel like you’ve been on a bit of an entertaining, at times, hell ride, I think that’s kind of the ultimate goal is that there’s been an escapism, and that you felt completely immersed in someone else’s experience for 80 minutes or whatever the run time is.
It’s a very dramatic departure from reality, or most daily life reality, and I think right now, whether it’s dark or light, that escapism is really nice. We did not realize that we would be doing a movie about cabin fever while everyone is at home with cabin fever, but anyway, it’s an opportunity to get lost in someone else’s house for a little while, and forget your own.
I’ve been watching a lot of horror lately, I think because it’s so out of the normal, daily life that it’s fun escapism during a very strange time.
Emma Tammi: Yeah, absolutely - and I think this one also brings to the forefront a lot of fears and anxieties around having kids. That’s not something that’s always - obviously, we take it into a totally escalated place - but, you know, I think those are common fears and anxieties that a lot of people face. Often, it’s not talked about. So, to bring some of those emotions to the screen in a way that feels relatable to the audience, I think that’s really great, too.
Another scene that sticks out is when Jenny and Val are in the bathroom... taking in that whole scene and trying to figure out what Val’s plan is … is crazy.
Emma Tammi: When I was reading the script for the first time, I remember being like, "I think I see x coming, but then it ended up being z." I was like, “Oh, that’s such a great twist.” It totally got me. If we can achieve this, that would be great, because - for a large chunk of the film, you’re sitting in a scenario that you kind of understand… so to have one really good twist at the end felt really satisfying.
Into the Dark's DELIVERED is streaming on Hulu now.