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LEAVE (2022)

Directed by Alex Herron.
Written by Thomas Moldestad.
Starring Alicia von Rittberg, Herman Tømmeraas, Stig R. Amdam, Ellen Dorrit Petersen, Morten Holst, Gry M. Dahl, Ragnhild Gudbrandsen, Bjørn Myrene, Maria Alm Norell, Gerald Pettersen, Clarence Smith

Alicia von Rittberg plays Hunter, a woman about to leave home for college, but before she does that, she decides to track down her birth mother. See, as a baby, Hunter was found in a cemetery wrapped in a black cloth with occult symbology on it and wearing an upside down cross necklace. She’s been investigating her heritage for years and has deduced that she may have been the daughter of the lead singer of a Norwegian Death Metal band who was touring in the area where she was found as a baby. So off to Norway Hunter goes, but once there, she uncovers an age old mystery about her heritage and a creepy ghost that keeps telling her to leave.

LEAVE is one of those hodge podge movies that darts all over the map. I wish it would have settled on one or two of the concepts that arise during Hunter’s journey, but instead, it tries to cram in Norwegian Death Metal, a suspicious Christian family, a stalker, an attempted rape, a stranger in a strange land, a search for one’s heritage, a ghost, an abduction, sexual/physical abuse of a child, and drugged out insanity into one movie. The story of a woman searching for her heritage is a winner, but the meandering way it goes about uncovering that heritage is simply a grab bag of bad things that most of the time have nothing to do with one another. I get it that writer Thomas Moldestad wanted to make Hunter’s journey an arduous one, but the way he heaps on the misdirections this plot takes left me head spinning. Hunter’s search is the focal point, but she has to encounter so much in order to get to the truth and is running around in so many directions, it becomes pointless after a while.

Alicia von Rittenberg is a stunning and talented actress. She is a strong lead and it’s probably because of that I was willing to endure the hamster wheel Hunter is put on in order to find her birth mother. That said, she can’t carry the movie alone. When she first meets her supposed family, they immediately present themselves as if they are the cast of an Agatha Christie novel. Everyone, even the ladies, seem to be twirling their mustaches at Hunter when she arrives. It just feels so mundane when I was promised at the beginning that there would be some Norwegian Black Metal in this one.

LEAVE is moody and atmospheric at times and it had a premise and initial mystery that sucked me in. It feels as if the filmmakers wanted to put together an old school whodunnit, which is fine. But those stories have a particular cadence and feel to them. When you introduce a ghost and Norwegian Black Metal, two very interesting elements that really go nowhere in the story, it makes for a disappointing time. I guess the promise of such lively and supernatural things proved disappointing when in the end, as all LEAVE turns out to be is a detective story. The fact that interesting angles and story elements were used as surface level decorations instead of the main parts of the story left me wanting the story to go in directions it didn’t. The story I got felt like it wanted to be some kind of GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO style story, but the mystery never reaches that level of intrigue. Too bad, because a Norwegian Black Metal ghost story sounds like a great movie I’d love to see. LEAVE isn’t that.

Check out the trailer here!!