One of the first things you’ll notice about Robert Rippberger‘s THOSE WHO WALK AWAY, and the main source of its sleepy hometown feel, is that it’s presented as one continuous shot. The new horror film follows Max (Booboo Stewart) and Avery (Scarlett Sperduto), two super awkward twenty-somethings going on a first date. Max, who has recently been scarred by the impacts of his mother’s battle with Huntington’s disease, gets to know Avery better as they stroll through a small town. She’s a scholar who mentions early on her love for an Ursula le Guin story called “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas“, based on a community whose success relies on them torturing a young boy.
This foreshadows a local tall tale of this Rotcreep, a hungry monster who leaves behind inky handprints. But the build-up to the Rotcreep, the town’s urban legend, takes ages, and the payoff fizzles before it ever unleashes real terror.
In an interview with Halloween Daily News and Booboo Stewart, Rippberger says he built haunted houses starting from childhood, and wanted to create his own haunted house for THOSE WHO WALK AWAY. Rippberger mentioned that he wanted it to appear as close to a one-shot film as possible, keeping a “purist” mentality about inserting edits. The camerawork and lighting are some of the strongest elements of this movie, amping up the intensity through whip pan shots and strobe lights.
Booboo Stewart has previously starred in The Twilight Saga, and he has recently acted as Warpath in X-Men: Days of Future Past. Meanwhile, Booboo Stewart’s father, stunt coordinator and actor Nils Allen Stewart (Debt Collectors, The Never List) is unrecognizable as the toothy Rotcreep. Booboo Stewart and Scarlett Sperduto (Strive, What Would You Do) do their best with the very long single-take format.
To go through the immense effort put into a movie seemingly made in all one take is ambitious. But as I watched long takes stretch on, I found myself wishing for more cuts and edits in order to amp up the horror of a creature like the Rotcreep. THOSE WHO WALK AWAY is best during the dramatic build-up to the haunted house, when Stewart and Sperduto are just walking and talking, spinning a tale of horror that never quite materializes.
THOSE WHO WALK AWAY releases in US theaters and is available today on VOD.