SXSW 2018: Don't Leave Home Review - An Urban Legend Slow Burn Dripping With Atmosphere - Dread Central
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SXSW 2018: Don’t Leave Home Review – An Urban Legend Slow Burn Dripping With Atmosphere

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Starring Anna Margaret Hollyman, Lalor Roddy, Helena Bereen

Written by Michael Tully

Directed by Michael Tully


Don’t Leave Home builds itself on a story that one would hear when sitting around a campfire with everyone exchanging scary stories. In hushed tones and a flashlight illuminating a face from below, the storyteller would weave a tale about a priest who was also an artist, one who specialized in paintings of people praying at a statue of the Virgin Mary. However, once their likeness was captured on canvas, they would disappear from our world, going to a place that no one knows of. Haunted by his powers, he becomes a recluse, hiding his power away from the world lest he hurts someone else. But when the folk tale of his strange power piques the interest of others, he must paint them so as to keep his secret safe, a vicious cycle of good intentions wracked by guilt.

Such is the film’s tale, which follows artist Melanie Thomas (Hollyman), who is commissioned by the aforementioned priest, Alistair Burke (Roddy), after he sees that she created a diorama based on the legend of a young girl who went missing after he painted her. Traveling to Ireland, Melanie meets the welcoming yet controlling Shelley (Bereen), who takes care of Burke and his estate, and settles into a truly atmospheric landscape, both inside the antiquated home as well as the rolling, craggy hills of the Emerald Isle.

Richly filmed by Wyatt Garfield (American Fable, Gabriel), Don’t Leave Home exudes gloom in nearly every frame. Complete with requisite nightly thunderstorms and grey overcast days, the film makes wonderful use of the expansive countryside as well as the claustrophobic halls of Burke’s manor. Director Tully also places heavy emphasis on the power of lighting, contrasting blue/black darkness with yellow/orange glows that add much needed warmth at just the right times.

While the movie is on point visually, the script feels a bit hammy at points and the overall experience feels like a strange mixture of a Lifetime Original and a classic gothic Hammer Horror title. Additionally, the film’s use of eerie experiences isn’t enough to make for a lasting sense of dread, so scares are few and far between.

The film clocks in at a brisk 80 minutes but strangely enough it feels much longer than that. There comes a point in the film where I though I’d seen the ending only for the movie to run another 15-ish minutes, changing from a dark, almost Skeleton Key-esque finale to something slightly more lighthearted. That being said, the last few minutes don’t exactly answer the nature of the film, which makes for a somewhat disappointing conclusion.

Definitely not a film for those who crave jump scares or constant action, Don’t Leave Home is a gothic supernatural tale that moves at a slow pace and throws just enough oddities to keep viewers glued to the screen.

  • Don't Leave Home
3.5

Summary

Don’t Leave Home is for horror fans who appreciate atmosphere and mystery instead of gore and violence. Undeniably inspired by British horror, it’s a slow burn that you won’t regret giving your time to.

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