We all have an innate desire to know where we come from, especially as we come of age and have our journeys of self-discovery. This idea is at the heart of Shudder’s latest original movie, Leave. What starts as a young woman’s journey to find her family lineage takes a very dark and twisted turn.
The film begins with a baby being found in a cemetery at night in 2002. Police and paramedics arrive on scene to rescue the infant. Years later, we’re reintroduced to 25 year old Hunter, as she’s saying goodbye to her loving, adopted father to go off to college at Georgetown University. Except she never sets foot in DC, instead she gets on a plane to Norway to search for her biological parents.
Using only a piece of memorabilia from a Norwegian metal band, and a DNA test that tells her she’s 99% Scandinavian, Hunter tracks down her birth parents. At first, she thinks that she’s found a new family she never knew she was missing, but there’s something very strange going on, even from the beginning.
Eventually, this leads to Hunter fearing for her life, but wanting to stick around to gain answers and uncover a great injustice that she thinks was done. The movie spends its first half as more of a family drama with the thriller/horror elements slowly seeping in. It’s very much the definition of a slow burn, and it works somewhat.
All families have secrets, but from the moment Hunter arrives, things seem very strange. There’s of course the initial awkwardness of getting to know people for the first time, but knowing that there is a familial connection that automatically is “supposed” to make you feel closer. But as she wants to know more about her birth mother, her relatives seem very quick to want to shut the subject down entirely.
Without getting too much into spoilers, there’s a recurring vision that Hunter keeps having that involves something that could or could not be supernatural. The movie does a good job of keeping itself just on the fringe of that for most of its runtime. So you’re never really sure if this is truly a paranormal film or if it’s just people being creepy, much like the protagonist herself.
All that being said, as far as family dramas disguised as horror films go, Leave doesn’t do too much differently than anything we’ve seen before. In fact, it seems pretty similar in tone and style to Spoonful of Sugar, which was also released on Shudder not only a couple weeks ago.
Not to say that Leave is poorly written, or acted, or anything really. It’s very well put together and its opening credit sequence feels far more “cinematic” than a lot of indie films released straight to streaming. But it’s the kind of film that after you watch one, you don’t really have the desire to ever see it again, if that makes sense.
What did you think of Leave? Let us know in the comments!
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