'Delicate Arch' is a unique psychological horror film that finds a middle ground between the horrors of loss of mind and the unexplained.

Delicate Arch finds a unique middle ground between the horrors of loss of mind and the unexplained. The indie horror film, written and directed by Matt Warren, recently had its world premiere at Dances with Films and I’ve been lucky enough to screen the film. This psychological horror story stars William LeonKelley MackKevin BohleberRene Leech, and Katie Self (who voices the narrator).

poster for Delicate Arch movie, 2024
Poster artwork for Delicate Arch

Synopsis for Delicate Arch

Grant, Wilda, Cody, and Ferg are all college students in Salt Lake City. Grant and Cody are supposed to be best friends, but Grant—a paranoid and spoiled film student—suspects that Cody is secretly hooking up with Wilda, an ex-girlfriend Grant struggles to remain amicable with. Their friend is Ferg, Wilda’s nonbinary stoner cousin and an amateur student of Theosophy and Ritual Majick. Fleeing an atmospheric disaster known as “The Inversion” in the Salt Lake Valley, the group decides to go camping in Southern Utah’s Arches National Park. As Grant’s obsessive voyeurism escalates on-site, he begins to sense a malevolent, yet imperceptible, force encroaching on them.

The Hits & Misses of a Film Like Delicate Arch

William Leon in Delicate Arch

From the start of this film the tone reaches out and holds on in such a sinister way. Bleak and unsettling, the narrator develops a heavy weight of dread in the stomach of a viewer. Her voice echoes comfort mixed in with suspicion and I wish it was used more often in the film.  Delicate Arch is reminiscent of mind-fuckery films such as The Truman Show and As Above So Below. Character traits and actions have an excellent way of examining the characters from the start and give a sense of their intentions. From how characters respond to situations to subtle choices made from the first couple scenes, each person displays specific archetypes that are represented in the meta moments in the film.

delicate arch movie

The visuals and editing in Delicate Arch are quite good and produce an impressive of the audience losing stability along with characters like Grant. The lighting and color balance shows off how much the tone shifts for Grant compared to the others in the film. The tone and story structure experience a shift back towards the sense of dread felt in the first scene. However, this tone doesn’t continue to hold up very well in certain portions of the film. Parts felt as though they were navigating a difficult jump between two different paths forward for the film. It echoed the themes of a film like The Outwaters too much at certain points and therefore the originality faltered.

delicate arch movie

The actors did a decent job, and I was impressed by Leech and Leon’s performances in particular. The scenes between Grant and Ferg were some of my favorites and seemed the strongest in the film overall. Some moments did drag on for too long, making the story feel lost at times. This didn’t help portions of the film that showed not many of the characters possessing likeable or redeeming qualities that would push care for their survival.

Delicate arch movie

While the visuals were very impressive, some portions resembled the texture and flow of A.I. produced videos and animation. I’m always a fan of digital manipulation with images and videos, but as an artist I’m hoping there wasn’t a resort to using A.I. imagery in the film itself. This doubt provides me with a sense of loss for true appreciation I’d love to have for the effects and visuals in their entirety.

delicate arch movie

One fantastic portion of the film was the twist of an ending that swirled in a bittersweet taste of shock in a character’s fate (I won’t spoil it of course). There were some fantastic decisions made in this film in regard to its approach of the meta, the genre of horror, and the terror of the fourth wall breaking between this genre’s audience and the story. It’s worth a watch, but not necessarily something worth a repeated viewing in my opinion. However, I’m very excited for whatever comes out from these creators and cast in the future.

Delicate Arch Review:


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