Known for her supernatural western horror film The Wind, director Emma Tammi is no stranger to showcasing strong, important female characters no matter how flawed or unfavorable. In her latest film DELIVERED, which is part of the Into the Dark horror anthology from Blumhouse and Hulu, she tackles a story from Dirk Blackman that finds a pregnant woman’s life in danger when she realizes someone close to her has insidious plans for her and her baby.
For the release of DELIVERED, I had the opportunity to interview Emma Tammi about her latest film. During our chat, we discussed everything from the inspiration that Rosemary’s Baby and Misery had on this film to building a sense of horror and dread during daylight hours.
Hi Emma, thank you so much for speaking with me today! To start things off can you tell us a little bit about how you got involved with Into the Dark?
Emma Tammi: I had worked with the Blumhouse TV folks a couple of years back on a documentary called Election Day: Lens Across America that was chronicling the 2016 elections. I think we had been wanting to find something else to work on together – I will at least speak for myself and say I certainly wanted to find something else to do with them. This episode came about and I had just directed a film called The Wind which had some similar themes as this episode of Into the Dark. We started talking about it and I read the script and really enjoyed it. It felt like a love song in some ways to the movie Misery which is one of my favorite books and films. It all went pretty quickly – we were basically making a film for this anthology series but it’s operating on a TV schedule so it all runs pretty quickly which was a great learning experience for me and really fun, actually.
The film definitely has a Rosemary’s Baby and Misery vibe to it. Can you elaborate on using those films as inspiration?
Emma Tammi: Absolutely. Those two films were primary and Rosemary’s Baby is also one of my all-time favorite films. We definitely were dealing with some of the same themes as that movie but I was also really inspired by the look of the film and Polanski’s framing and all that. We were constantly referencing that and, of course, Mia Farrow gives one of the all-time great performances, as does Kath Bates in Misery. With DELIVERED we were trying to channel some really fabulous performances from our two lead actresses (Natalie Paul and Tina Majorino) who were playing very different characters but who were both grappling with some really serious trauma and issues relating to their fears around pregnancy and/or motherhood. It was really fabulous to be able to dive into those characters with them and make discoveries along the way.
I like how the film doesn’t just show the positive side of pregnancy and upcoming motherhood, but also how difficult and scary it can be. Was that something that was important for you to show?
Emma Tammi: Absolutely. I myself have not had kids yet and I think that if I do decide to do that these would be some of the fears that I would be grappling with as well. I was hoping that it would also connect with people who hadn’t had kids yet, whether female or male or however identifying. I think this idea of bringing new life into the world is so powerful and really incredible but also fear-inducing and pressure-making. It really makes you hold a mirror up to yourself as well to ask whether or not you feel like your the person that you want to be for someone else as a role model and if you want to make those kinds of sacrifices for someone else. I think these are the big questions that come up when you’re thinking about having kids and/or having kids, I feel like there’s still some universality in the questions themselves. We see our character Valerie kind of going through her own journey and the character of Jenna going through a different journey, obviously, a very different journey. It’s just throwing it all out there and it’s messy and I think that felt like an authentic take on at least this character’s experience. It was really fun to explore.
One of my favorite aspects of this film was the farmhouse because it eventually becomes a character in and of itself. How difficult was it finding that location?
Emma Tammi: It was so great, we lucked out. It was the first house we saw as a possibility for that location. It was a little bit further than we would have ideally liked but it was still in the parameter under which we had to see for our production. We just crossed our fingers and went for it as hard as we could cause obviously we were there for the majority of the shoot. It totally became a character in and of itself and we knew we really needed to land a location that could feel both charming and isolated in the most serene and peaceful sense but then also could turn and feel creepy and a little stuck in time and removed in a completely terrifying way. It felt like we were able to achieve that with that house. We were so lucky that we were able to shoot there. We also all felt removed going out there which I think was a bonus.
I also enjoyed that the majority of the horrific moments happened during the day and were accompanied by a nursery rhyme, making those moments even more unsettling. Can you elaborate on that?
Emma Tammi: In terms of the music we definitely wanted some of our cues to reflect a nursery song in an indirect way and/or something that felt pleasant. When leaning into the POV of different characters we were really feeling like Jenny would be viewing some of these moments as like a cheerful thing. She shows Valerie the nursery room and she’s excited to do it but then she’s also about to attack her – there’s this weird eeriness that’s happening with some of the nursery scenes that we were trying to bring into the score. We wanted to walk that line of childhood happy feelings with dark undertones because that felt like a really dynamic blend. In terms of the daylight and the horror moments happening in the day, I got to explore that a little bit in the last film I did, The Wind. Particularly with the gore, sometimes when you have bright, harsh light on that it just makes it even more excruciating to look at. Ari Aster obviously did an incredible job using daylight in a horrific way in Midsommar. I think we just didn’t shy away from it. Plus our schedule was tight so it was also finding scenes where we could really maximize the daylight also in relation to our shooting schedule and/or night time and trying to figure out which scenes would benefit the most from different times of the day. I think also it created variety – we’re really located in this one house for the majority of the film but one of the things that change the mood and shape of that house is the time of day. Being able to utilize both sunlight and darkness was really valuable.
INTO THE DARK: DELIVERED is now available to watch on Hulu. For more on the film, check out our review here.