Review: Leave

Directed by Alex Herron and written by Thomas Moldestad, a young woman tries to find her origins after having been abandoned as an infant at a cemetery wrapped in a cloth with satanic symbols, but as she gets closer to answers a malevolent spirit is telling her to leave. Starring: Alicia von Rittberg, Herman Tømmeraas, Stig R. Amdam, Ellen Dorrit Petersen and Morten Holst.

Opening credits sequences are rare these days, audiences don’t typically have the patience or appreciation for them but it’s an element that when done well, can kick things off on the right note. Leave achieves that, it creates a feeling of being the younger, less experienced cousin of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It sets the atmosphere off down a road that’s dark but not depressing, mysterious but not overly complex. The film then builds a great layer of tension and suspense, which the Scandinavian setting is perfect for. It adds a hugely sharp, modern feel to the aesthetic, the clean, sleek texture to it is very satisfying to watch. Alex Herron’s direction is strong throughout, it holds a big consistency that allows the story to flow organically.

The writing on the other hand from Thomas Moldestad can feel hit and miss. The progression is done well but the actual content of the plot starts to become relatively predictable and reveals its larger themes rather late. Although that’s not necessarily a disadvantage as using a religious, misogynist style angle is a fairly tired choice. As well as that when it does reach its big finale, it feels somewhat repetitive and goes out with more of a fizzle than a bang. It’s one of the classic issues with horror or thriller cinema, creating an ending that’s unexpected and satisfying, to do justice to the rest of the story and sadly, Leave misses the mark. The intention is there and it’s likely that its impact will depend on how big of a horror fan its viewers are, it could potentially work a lot better for people not so familiar with this type of film.

Another element that’s hugely consistent is the performance from Alicia von Rittberg. She provides the perfect perspective to see this story through her eyes. Bringing the eagerness and the insecurity, that deep desire to know her heritage that will lead her to choose the truth over safety. She’s almost like a classic final girl, she has charm, is a touch naïve but has hidden strength. Ellen Dorrit Petersen is also a great addition, bringing a superb amount of personality and warmth, it’s only a shame we don’t get to see more of her. The same goes for Morten Holst, he gets a bigger screen time but he gives Kristian a complexity that would have been interesting to dive into further.

Leave is very well shot in great locations building a strong tension and is led by a gripping performance from Alicia von Rittberg but it loses its way in the end. The progression and pacing both hit the right note, there’s plenty of intrigue and mystery but the final reveal is unsatisfying. It falls into a lot of stereotype and the psychology and religious themes that it’s bringing to the table feel weak and unjustified. It didn’t give itself the time to create a bigger foundation to make that final choice land with a bigger impact. There’s plenty to like and if you’re not a die-hard horror fan, it will have more surprises in store for you but either way it’s a solid horror-thriller and worth a watch.

Verdict: ✯✯✯ | 6/10

Streaming Exclusively on Shudder March 17th

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