Thursday, March 16, 2023

Leave, on Shudder

The Norse Wolf Cross looks satanic, but it is actually Pagan. Either way, it is a handy symbol for a horror movie. Hunter White was found with one when her adopted father, a cop, responded to a call, regarding a baby wailing in a cemetery. Having taken DNA tests and done extensive research, she secretly visits Norway in search of her roots in Alex Herron’s Leave, which premieres on Shudder tomorrow.

White told her father she was leaving to start college at Georgetown (where
The Exorcist was set, a completely unrelated fact), but she is headed to Norway instead. Her DNA is 99% Norwegian and she discovered Cecilia, a Norwegian Death Metal vocalist, was playing in Boston the night she was abandoned. Despite a rocky start, Cecilia turns sympathetic, deducing White is the birth daughter of her now-institutionalized bassist, Kristian, and Anna Norheim, the girlfriend her presumably murdered in a particularly grisly fashion.

From there, Hunter follows the trail to the Nordheims, who are welcoming, but also suspiciously hardcore fire-and-brimstone Christians. Some supernatural force keeps telling White to “leave,” as per the title, but she keeps ignoring it.

That’s right, this film teases good old fashioned satanic panic, but turns into to be all about evil Calvinists. It does not do itself any favors in this regard. The film starts with the frighteningly evocative scene of White’s discovery in the graveyard, but that is just about the film’s first, last, and only scary moment. The rest is a bunch of silly stuff with sinister Evangelicals, including a patriarch pushing eighty, who somehow consistently overpowers the twenty-five year-old White.

Admittedly, Alicia von Rittberg is literally playing a Scandinavian named “White,” but she is still blandly vanilla in the lead role. However, Morten Holst is appropriately twitchy as Kristian and Clarence Smith and Ellen Dorrit Petersen (who was so amazing in
Blind) add a lot of humanity as Raylan White and Cecilia, respectively.

Don’t panic, its not satanic. It’s hardly even horror—but closer to a Norwegian
Deliverance, with a half-baked ghost wandering around. Considering the strong prelude, the guts of Leave are a real disappointment. Not recommended, Leave starts streaming tomorrow (3/17) on Shudder.