Earlier in 2022, supernatural thriller Those Who Walk Away premiered simultaneously in select theaters and on VOD platforms. It’s the latest movie to shoot its story in a single continuous take (or at least edited to look like one). From director Robert Rippberger and starring Twilight-alum Booboo Stewart, Those Who Walk Away mixes a familiar haunted house narrative with an attempt at a deeper examination of trauma and survival. Based on a handful of reviews, the supernatural thriller seems to fall a bit short of its lofty goals.
After a year spent taking care of his sick mother, Max anxiously looks forward to a normal life. His first step – a first date with Avery, a young women he met online. Immediately, the two hit it off but their date plans go sideways when a bomb scare closes the movie theater. When Avery suggests they visit a local haunted house, Max reluctantly agrees, a decision they’ll both regret. Inside the abandoned house, Max and Avery learn a local legend may be more real than imagined.
Those Who Walk Away Leaves Too Much To Its Second Half
Though it looks like a straightforward take on the haunted house, Those Who Walk Away is a disjointed effort that feels like two different movies. Nearly 40 minutes of the movie feel more like a mumblecore romantic indie. Writer and director Robert Rippberger takes us along with Max and Avery’ on their casual first date stroll. Aside from a few hints that not all is right, it’s an aimless conversation that while natural, maybe even occasionally sweet, doesn’t justify its length. It makes the shift to the horror elements a bit of a jolt, but at the expense of pacing and tension. Moreover, the movie’s first half exposes a thinly written story.
Nearly 40 minutes of the movie feel more like a mumblecore romantic indie.
Once Those Who Walk Away arrives at its haunted house, Rippberger shows some chops with horror visuals and atmosphere. The twist – or maybe it’s better called a surprise – feels obvious. After all, Rippberger heavily foreshadows it. Nonetheless, Those Who Walk Away includes plenty of surreal imagery as Rippberger twists his camera and washes some scenes in eerie neon lighting. Each room of the house boasts some interesting designs that extend beyond the movie’s small budget. If Those Who Walk Away takes too much time to arrive here, it nearly makes up for it with a labyrinth experience that often feels a bit unpredictable.
Those Who Walk Away Haunted By Too Many Underdeveloped Ideas
Like Let’s Scare Julie, Those Who Walk Away is shot – or edited to appear – as one single, continuous take. It’s an ambitious approach as is Rippberger’s incorporation of Ursula Le Guin’s The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas. Unfortunately, the thriller’s ambition outstretches its substance. Both BooBoo Stewart and and Scarlett Sperduto deliver solid performances. In particular, Stewart comes across as very natural playing a character struggling to come to grips with their past. And one wishes Sperduto had more time on screen. Nevertheless, the single shot format makes it difficult to fully develop characters and themes.
Unfortunately, the thriller’s ambition outstretches its substance.
Case in point, the movie’s boogeyman, Rotcreep, is another unique, ambitious piece of storytelling. And visually, the character is frightening and promising new horror villain. Yet Those Who Walk Away inexplicably limits the character’s presence and, as a result, impact. While there’s discernible allusions to Rotcreep’s origins – and its connection to trauma – the ideas are either too ambiguous or underdeveloped.
Flashy Visuals, Deep Ideas Never Quite Reach Their Potential
In spite of its shortcomings, Those Who Walk Away shows off the talent of its director and principal cast. Following a slow start, there’s plenty of surreal atmosphere and visual style. In addition, Rippberger has bigger ideas at play here that again hint at an ambitious filmmaker. The problem here is that these various strengths never gel together into a single movie. So while it’s often stylish and clever, it’s never a completely entertaining movie.