Another new release on Shudder and another horror movie delving into family relationships and secrets. Following on the heels of the quietly excellent Attachment, Norwegian horror movie Leave teases a mix of a supernatural Satanic thriller grounded in the country’s infamous Black metal scene. If a family with a secret isn’t enough to give you chill, the Black metal imagery may be enough to push you over the edge. Only a handful of critics have weighed in on this Shudder release so far.
Years ago, when she was just a baby, police found Hunter White abandoned in a cemetery wrapping in a blanket marked by Satanic writing. Now a young woman, Hunter needs answers and a DNA test sends her to Norway searching for her birth parents. Instead, what she finds is a family who initially greet her warmly but have secrets. As Hunter experiences haunting images of a dark figure – a burned woman – and uncovers some of her past, she quickly finds herself in danger.
Leave Promises One Story, Delivers Another, and Underwhelms on Both Fronts
Sometimes there isn’t anything wrong with giving audiences what they want or expect. So much of Leave initially promises a haunting tale build on Norway’s Black metal scene. Certainly, the early 90s scene presented more than enough material for a fictionalized horror movie. After all, the recent Lords of Chaos crafted a compelling thriller on a loosely adapted true story. Instead, director Herron and writer Thomas Moldestad (Cold Prey) subvert expectations using the Black metal scene merely to distract from the thriller’s real evil – devout faith and misogyny. If the diversion disappoints, the true themes in Leave ultimately ultimately underwhelm in spite of its own inherent potential.
So much of Leave initially promises a haunting tale build on Norway’s Black metal scene. Certainly, the early 90s scene presented more than enough material for a fictionalized horror movie.
That is, Herron and Moldestad don’t do much aside from scratch the surface. Though the elderly Torstein asks Hunter a few pointed questions about her faith and cousin Stian reflects the kind of entitlement Leave wants to explore, most of subtext unfolds in expository dialogue reserved for the finale. Simply put, there’s not enough mystery packed into the story to justify its pacing or story shift. Moreover, the narrative choice to still include possible supernatural elements just blurs the intended social commentary. At some point, one has to wonder if it would have benefited Heron to settle on what kind of movie he wanted to make.
Leave Boasts Almost Enough Chills To Carry Its Story Through To Its Finale
Regardless of story diversions, Leave still works quite well as a creepy thriller for most of its runtime. In its opening scene, Heron craft the kind of horror atmosphere that hooks audiences and has them leaning toward the edge of your seat. Throughout the Norwegian horror movie, Heron maintains a sense of dread that’s punctuated by a handful of decent jolts. Some of the horror imagery feels unnerving enough to wonder why it’s largely discarded for the finale. Somehow Leave loses all of its steam in a climax that drags into an unnecessary prologue that makes the thriller feel very bit of its hour and 46 minute runtime.
Throughout the Norwegian horror movie, Heron maintains a sense of dread that’s punctuated by a handful of decent jolts.
While most of the cast cast will be unfamiliar to North American audiences, all of the performances are strong. As Hunt, Alicia von Rittberg (Fury) conveys just the right mixture of determination and apprehension to sell the thriller’s less grounded elements. Technically, Herman Tømmeraas’s (Ragnorak) fills what should be a more supporting role. But he has a look and delivery that better suits Leave’s themes than its more elder statesman, Stig R. Amdam. Specifically, Tømmeraas looks more menacing and evokes more dread as compared to Amdam who just seems overbearing.
Leave Fails to Capitalize on Its Premise and Atmosphere
Norwegian thriller Leave promises a Satanic horror rooted in Black metal and cults, subverts audiences expectations, and inevitably delivers very little. Though Herron maintains a foreboding atmospheres and orchestrates a handful of scares, he can’t turn Moldestad’s screenplay into anything more than a plodding effort. What’s promised in its opening gives way to a mystery that isn’t complex or intriguing enough to carry the thriller. And themes of misogyny and religion are given surface-level treatment. By the time the finale wraps up, you’ll be encouraging Herron to just roll the credits. Good performances and production values alongside potential may keep you watching, but you’ll likely leave Leave dissatisfied.