The Movie Waffler New Release Review - LEAVE | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - LEAVE

Leave review
A woman disturbs malevolent forces as she investigates her mysterious background.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Alex Herron

Starring: Alicia von Rittberg, Herman Tømmeraas, Ellen Dorrit Petersen, Stig R. Amdam, Morten Holst, Ragnhild Gudbrandsen

Leave poster

The Satanic Panic era of the 1980s and 1990s saw high profile figures like Oprah Winfrey and Geraldo Rivera lead the way in blaming society's ills on anything that could be considered slightly adjacent to Satanism. Listening to Heavy Metal, enjoying horror movies or even wearing too much black could get you in trouble, with several cases of young people wrongfully jailed for crimes they didn't commit. The irony of course is that Christians were the ones you really had to watch out for, something highlighted a couple of years ago in director Marc Meyers' 1988 set We Summon the Darkness, which posited a group of Metal fans battling an evil Christian pastor. While that movie was largely unremarkable, it was a long overdue piece of restorative cinematic justice for scapegoated fans of the darker arts.

Leave review

Norwegian director Alex Herron does something similar with his debut feature Leave, portraying the infamous Norwegian Black Metal scene as populated by thoroughly decent folk, unlike the film's grace-saying, Bible-bashing baddies. It's a bit of an odd one, as Norway is literally the one place where Christians' concerns about Satanism and Metal were well-founded, with Satan-worshipping Black Metal musicians and fans famously committing a series of grisly killings and burning down churches. If ever a group of people would make effective horror movie villains it's the Norwegian Black Metal crowd, so it feels like a missed opportunity not to exploit their infamy.

The film opens with a cop finding a newborn abandoned in an American ceremony, wrapped in a cloth adorned with Satanic symbols and with an upside down cross dangling around its neck. Two decades later and the same cop has raised the child as his own daughter, Hunter (Alicia von Rittberg). Pretending she's heading off to Georgetown to begin college, Hunter actually takes a flight to the Norwegian city of Bergen, having followed several clues in search of the mother who abandoned her.

Leave review

Booking into an eerily abandoned hotel, Hunter has a creepy encounter with some form of spirit, a supernatural element that the movie subsequently sidelines so heavily that it's a surprise when it pops up again at a later point. Horror gives way largely to thriller territory as Hunter stalks Cecilia (Ellen Dorrit Petersen), the Metal vocalist she believes is her mom. Confronted by Cecilia, Hunter learns the dark truth of her origins, which leads her to the secluded island home of her grandfather (Stig R. Amdam) and his various odd family members.

Leave's early Bergen sequences hint at a far more thrilling movie, one in which an outsider immerses themselves in the local Black metal scene in search of answers. Von Rittberg may be German, but she's thoroughly convincing as the sort of wide-eyed innocent all-American girl that might find herself in trouble in Europe. As such we genuinely fear for her as she initially seems to make enemies of intimidating Nordic rockers. Once Hunter heads to her granddad's island the movie devolves into stock representations of creepy Christians, which at this point are as clichéd as those of Satanists four decades ago.

Leave review

Leave is one of several new horror movies I've seen recently that have an odd lack of peril. Hunter is alone in her quest, and as she's the film's sole protagonist we have little doubt that she's going to make it through the film in one piece. With no other potential victims, there's no sense that anyone is in any real danger. We're left to watch Hunter conduct a haphazard investigation into her past which despite some effectively foggy locations, plays out like a bland TV detective drama. Too much of the film involves Hunter listening as some other character reveals a bit more of the plot. Black Metal acolytes may appreciate a movie portraying them in a positive light, but with its lack of thrills, Leave is more Easy Listening than Hard Rock.

 is on Shudder from March 17th.

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