Welcome witches and warlocks,
Today I will be reviewing the horror feature DON’T LEAVE HOME (2018) by writer/director Michael Tully. To best describe the story, I will turn to the IMDB plot summary:
“An American artist’s obsession with a disturbing urban legend leads her to an investigation of the story’s origins at the crumbling estate of a reclusive painter in Ireland.”
This film has an incredibly distinctive look, which is appropriate since the central turning point of this film is art. There is something truly beautiful in the composition that captures the feel of watching a painting in motion. They cleverly use aspect ratios to further back up this idea as the screen acts as a sort of frame around the action at hand.
Of course, it helps that the setting for the piece is a picturesque estate in Ireland. The location pretty much instantly ups the entire production values by adding a level of beauty that permeates the entire feature. This is carried further in the cinematography which has a simple, yet classical feel that puts this right in line with many of the old school European chillers.
The horror here does not rely upon jump scares, but more just a creeping feeling of dread. By using muted color schemes, the pervading evil of the piece automatically connects to our subconscious in a way that tells us when things are about to get weird. This use of shading is further backed up by the fact that there is a lot of strange imagery accompanying the mysterious events at play.
Now the story itself is where I take a bit of issue with the film. While the rule set at play is incredibly clear, I found the character motivations to be a bit too vague for my liking. In particular, the role of Alistair just did not make sense to me as he is a good man who seems to keep doing bad things, but against his own will. For me, his character arc just did not work as I could never understand what motivated him to act the way he does. That being said, the other roles were much more clear-cut so they bridged some of the story gaps.
Even if the character arcs were not always as accessible as I would have liked, the acting itself was top notch. From the strange butler Padraig to the mysterious housekeeper Shelley, the small cast managed to give memorable performances. What made it work is how the excellent supporting cast was able to back up the pitch perfect turn by our lead actress Anna Margaret Hollyman. Her curiosity about the events at play and slow realization that she might have bitten off more than she can chew feels so natural that it might as well be her second skin.
All in all, the production values on this are top of the line and it works nicely as a modern day version of the old European chillers. While I wish there was a little more meat to the story, the excellent turns by the cast keep this entertaining throughout. Fans of movies like The Wicker Man(1973) and Don’t Look Now (1973) will find this to be in a similar vein.