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Review: 'Don't Leave Home' will make horror fans want to stay in for a modest but creepy throwback

Review: 'Don't Leave Home' will make horror fans want to stay in for a modest but creepy throwback
Anna Margaret Hollyman in the movie "Don't Leave Home." (Cranked Up Films)

Eerie and haunting without ever being outright scary, "Don't Leave Home" is different enough from current trends in horror to be of at least some interest to hardcore genre buffs. Taking cues more from the psychological horror of Roman Polanski and especially Nicolas Roeg’s “Don’t Look Now,” this latest film from indie director Michael Tully (“Septien”) falls somewhere between a dream and a nightmare.

The film opens strong with an elegantly constructed prologue depicting the pivotal disappearance of a little girl in 1980s Ireland. A priest had painted a portrait of her while she was praying to a statue of the Virgin Mary. The next morning she vanished from both her bed and the painting, becoming one of the country's most inexplicable mysteries.

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Years later an American artist (Anna Margaret Hollyman) finds herself drawn to the story and plans to include a diorama of the incident in her upcoming show. When the show earns a negative early review, she travels to Ireland, meets the now older priest (Lalor Roddy) and the enigmatic woman (Helena Bereen) who tends to him. Faster than you can say “true crime cult,” the situation devolves into a cryptic series of unnerving incidents.

Tully’s filmmaking remains polished throughout but the narrative never fully clicks. This is a film designed to withhold crucial information, even when viewers reach the climax, and that approach doesn't quite work when there's not enough to keep us invested in the mystery.

Nevertheless, horror buffs can do a lot worse and thanks to the rise of video on demand, the title perfectly describes the ideal viewing experience.

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'Don't Leave Home'

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 26 minutes

Playing: Arena Cinelounge Sunset, Hollywood

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