It’s hard to describe the mood of Irish folklore. With film, there is the benefit of a physical manifestation; marshy, foggy, mossy, and earthen.. But even still, there is an unnameable quality that makes a story set in the overcast, rich green hills of the Irish countryside authentic. Whether they be tales of Faeries living in the woods, or ghostly presences that haunt the halls of old manor houses – there is a simplicity to these stories. Don’t Leave Home nestles itself comfortably amidst them. Neither distinctly old or new, this film will give you a sense of nostalgia – even if you can’t predict quite where the mystery unravels.
Don’t Leave Home, written and directed by Michael Tully, grounds our paranormal tale through Art and ‘True’ crime. We follow American artist Melanie Thomas (Anna Margaret Hollyman), who, inspired by ‘The Lost Souls of Ireland’, has created a series of miniatures in a diorama-like fashion for an upcoming art show. She loses faith after an extremely negative review comes in prematurely. It is quickly and eagerly restored when a call comes in purchasing a piece from the show and commissioning another. In haste, or in an effort to learn more about the mystery herself, Melanie flies out to Ireland to personally deliver the piece to the buyer.
“Neither distinctly old or new, [Don’t Leave Home] will give you a sense of nostalgia..”
The diorama of interest depicts the ‘real’ disappearance of 8-year-old Siobhan (Alisha Weir). The girl mysteriously vanished in 1987 after her parents commissioned a portrait from the local priest, Alistair Burke (Lalor Roddy). Strange occurrences surrounded the painting from the very beginning. As the priest painted the girl, rays of sunlight broke through the trees, and for a flickering moment – she was invisible. Brushing it off, the priest completed the portrait. After little Siobhan disappeared, so did too her image from the painting. Haunted by the incident, Burke then went into exile. And there he stayed, isolated – until he stumbled across Melanie Thomas’ sculptures. He is the purchaser.
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Arriving in Ireland, Melanie stays at the isolated Manor with the forlorn and silent Burke, and the suspiciously nice head-of-house Shelly (Helena Bereen). Also lurking about is the silent and strange chauffeur, Padraig (David McSavage). Melanie is free to roam about the property, and often visits the mysterious setting of the diorama; an eerie clearing in a dense forest where a powder blue statue of The Virgin Mary looms from the base of a very large and very spooky tree. Under the watchful eye of Shelly, Melanie struggles to learn more about the incident and more about the Priest. The two often must steal moments to talk to one another in private. And in-between terrifying jaunts through the manor-house, Melanie begins work on her commissioned piece. The auction begins soon.
“Our small cast of characters keep the overall mystery of Don’t Leave Home rich and interesting..”
Our small cast of characters keep the overall mystery of Don’t Leave Home rich and interesting. Melanie’s nightmare-like visions and sometimes jarring hallucinations effectively slice through the foreboding, but calm atmosphere. You feel for the melancholic Burke, even if you aren’t entirely trustworthy of him. Without dipping its toes too deeply into the ‘horror’ pond, Don’t Leave Home is effectively creepy throughout.
Don’t Leave Home is ominous, eerie, and a mystery worth-unraveling.
We caught Don’t Leave Home as part of the 2018 Overlook Film Festival in New Orleans, Louisiana. Stick around Nightmare on Film Street for even more festival coverage, and check out our Twitter and Instagram pages for highlights from the event.
Don’t Leave Home premiered earlier this year at SXSW, and was recently picked up for distribution in North America by Good Deed Entertainment. GDE Founder said, “We are thrilled to be involved with the release of Don’t Leave Home. The filmmaking team has crafted a unique genre story that has an unsettling elegance and thoughtfulness that is sure to leave audiences chilled to the bone,” We’ll update you here at Nightmare on Film Street when a firm release date is set.