Written by Thomas Moldestad and directed by Norweigian director Alex Herron, “Leave” (2023) stars Alicia von Rittberg, Herman Tømmeraas, Ellen Dorrit Petersen, and Stig R. Amdam. In the film, we follow a young woman’s journey to uncover her roots after being left as a baby at a cemetery wrapped in a cloth adorned with sinister satanic symbols. As she delves deeper into the mystery of her past, an ominous and wicked presence warns her to depart from her quest.
The trend of combining rock metal music with the horror genre is becoming a big cliché. “Leave” is simply a movie that lacks coherence and fails to give adequate depth to its characters. To top that off, the poor editing makes it challenging for the viewer to sit through. Despite attempting to portray past traumas, patriarchal norms, and foolish religious beliefs that stifle women’s spirits, the film falls short of delivering a strong message.
The protagonist is seen struggling to put her life’s puzzle together, but her poor decision-making skills make it a frustrating watch. It is regrettable that the film’s writer/director did not invest more time in crafting a tighter script. The horror genre is an excellent medium to address societal issues like childhood trauma, PTSD, and family drama, but this particular film doesn’t quite get there.
If you are curious to know what happens in the movie, here’s a detailed explanation for you to read.
Leave (2023) Plot Summary & Movie Synopsis:
The opening scene of the Shudder Original “Leave” features a distressed woman making a frantic 911 call about a crying baby. Officer Raylan White is dispatched to a nearby cemetery, where he discovers a beautiful baby left alone at night. With no one around, he takes the child into his care and notices that the baby is wrapped in a blanket adorned with demonic symbols and wearing a satanic cross. Raylon decides to adopt the child and names her Hunter.
Several years later, Hunter searches through the attic and discovers the blanket and cross tucked away in a box. She realizes that she has been searching for answers about her abandonment and hopes that these items may provide a connection to her birth parents. As her adoptive father calls her, Hunter takes these items with her hoping to uncover the truth behind her past.
Despite her father’s belief that she is headed to Georgetown for college, Hunter has different plans. She sets out on a journey to Norway in hopes of discovering the identity of her birth mother and finding the answers she seeks. As she purchases a train ticket in Norway, Hunter notices a shadowy figure following her (but obviously, she ignores it!)
After arriving at the hotel, Hunter delves into the various details she has researched about her origin and the woman who may be her mother. She carefully examines the information, hoping to uncover clues that could lead her to the truth. As Hunter continues her search, she notices that the blanket she was wrapped in as a child belonged to someone who attended a metal concert.
As Hunter continues to unravel the mystery of her past, she has a startling vision. She sees herself being pursued by a shadowy figure that bursts through flames of fire, relentlessly approaching her. This eerie and unsettling vision leaves Hunter shaken and wondering what it could mean for her search.
Who are Hunter’s birth parents?
Later that evening, Hunter becomes fixated on the singer of a Norwegian black metal band, Cecilia, while at a bar. As Cecilia begins to notice Hunter’s gaze, she approaches her to inquire about her curious behavior. However, Hunter quickly changes the subject and offers to buy Cecilia another beer, successfully diverting her attention.
After Cecilia leaves, Hunter covertly takes Cecilia’s beer bottle with her to examine it in her hotel room. However, on her way back, she is followed by Cecilia’s bodyguard, who grows suspicious of Hunter’s actions. Eventually, the bodyguard confronts Hunter and learns that she believes Cecilia may be her birth mother.
The next day, Hunter and Cecilia sit down to discuss the previous night’s events. Cecilia explains that she had sent her bodyguard to follow Hunter, believing her to be another crazy fan. However, Hunter soon reveals that she has been searching for her birth mother and discovers she is 99% Scandinavian after taking a DNA test. Despite Cecilia confirming that she is not her mother, they continue to talk and share information about their lives. During their conversation, Cecilia realizes that Hunter is the daughter of Kristian, the band’s former bass player, and his partner Anna, who used to hang out with the band.
What happened to Anna and Kristian?
Cecilia confides in Hunter that Anna had taken the baby and disappeared when she was born. It caused Kristian to suffer a mental breakdown because there were past incidents where Anna threatened to harm the baby. Kristian searched for Anna for a considerable amount of time and eventually found her, after which he locked her inside a church and set it on fire, resulting in Anna’s death. Kristian was convicted of brutally murdering Anna and sentenced to 21 years. However, he was later diagnosed with schizophrenia, so he was transferred to a mental hospital.
In a rush, Hunter packs her bag and heads to the hospital to visit Kristian, who is allowed to have his own visitors, unlike in prison. To gain access to Kristian, Hunter pretends to be a journalism student conducting research on Norwegian Black Metal. During their meeting, Hunter begins to inquire about Kristian’s personal life, particularly his relationship with Anna. This puzzles Kristian, as he initially assumed Hunter was interested in discussing music. However, when Kristian notices the cross around Hunter’s neck, he demands to know her true identity. He becomes angry and stands up, prompting the guards to remove him from the room to ensure Hunter’s safety.
What do the cross and the symbolic shawl refer to?
Upon meeting her father, Hunter becomes even more determined to uncover information about her mother. During a conversation with Cecilia, Hunter inquires about the shawl and cross she is wearing. Cecilia explains that the cross is not satanic but a wolf’s cross from Norse mythology, a common belief in Norway.
Additionally, Cecilia informs Hunter that Anna used to keep a diary and suggests that Anna’s family may be able to help in her search for answers. With this new lead, Hunter obtains the location of Anna’s family from Cecilia and sets out to meet them.
What does Hunter find about Anna’s family?
Hunter arrives at her mother’s family home and is greeted by Anna’s aunt, Lillian, followed by her husband, Olav, and a rather unsettling cousin named Stian. Hunter discovers that her grandfather, Torstein, is still alive through her interactions with them.
Hunter is invited by Lillian to stay at their home, and after dinner, she retires to her room. During her sleep, the exact shadowy figure comes to haunt her, and hunter wakes up only to find no one in the room. The following day, she visits Torstein and asks if he has any diary that Anna kept to herself. Her grandfather refuses to say he never went through her things as it caused him too much pain. On her way back to Lillian’s place, she comes across Stian. He convinces her that the family has more history than she can imagine as he accompanies her back to Torstein’s house, hoping they can somehow get inside it.
However, Stian receives a call from his friend, leaving Hunter alone to do the dreadful task – of breaking into her grandfather’s place. When she gets inside through the backdoor, she makes it through Torstein’s room. She then goes to the attic, goes through old things, and finds a diary. While going through the journal, she hears Torstein’s car pull over. She rushes downstairs but finds herself at a spot where she sees the ghost following her. The spirit touches her cross locket, and she has a flashback of what could have gone wrong in this house.
Meanwhile, we also learn that the family had a strong religious background, as evidenced by Torstein’s inquiry about Hunter’s religious beliefs during a special moment they shared. Additionally, Stian disclosed that the family had a troubling history, including the death of Torstein’s wife due to a fall down the stairs, the suicide of Stian’s aunt by wrist-slitting, and the sudden disappearance of his sister when he was only four years old. Hunter discovered that all of these tragic incidents involved women who had died prematurely. Stian informed her that she was now the only surviving female member of the family. Moreover, Hunter learned that her mother, Anna, had joined a Black Metal group and perished in a church fire, adding to her family’s long list of female fatalities.
As Hunter gazes upon the charred figure of a woman approaching her, memories flood back to a horrifying scene of a woman being burned alive in a church, causing her to lose her footing and tumble down the attic stairs. Upon noticing the diary, Torstein discovers her lying unconscious and swiftly confiscates it and orders her to leave the family home. Although Hunter bids farewell to Lilian and her family, she remains determined to uncover the truth. Hunter seeks refuge with Stian on his houseboat, and they devise a plan to sneak back into Torstein’s house and retrieve the diary. However, during their search, Hunter catches Stian stealing money and confronts him, prompting him to lash out and attack her. In a moment of self-defense, Hunter strikes him in the head, causing him to fall and hit his head on the countertop before landing face-first in a pool of his blood. Meanwhile, Lillian and Olaf spot strange flickering lights from Torstein’s home and investigate, only to discover their son’s lifeless body. Hunter flees the scene before anyone can see her, grappling with the weight of the unfolded events.
Why does Hunter visit her father again? Who is Liv?
Hunter turns to Cecilia and requests her to translate the contents of her mother’s diary. However, Hunter soon discovered that the journal did not belong to Anna but to her friend – Lillian’s daughter. Overwhelmed with confusion, Hunter confronted Kristian again and revealed her true identity to him. Kristian was visibly emotional and warned Hunter not to return to the dangerous family home. In a surprising revelation, Kristian disclosed that Anna had never wanted to keep her baby, as it was a girl. As Hunter prepared to leave, Kristian shouted “Liv,” which was actually Hunter’s real name, given to her by Anna and also the name of Lillian’s daughter. Hunter vowed to seek answers to her questions and departed, leaving Kristian behind.
After sneaking into Torstein’s residence through a window, Hunter stumbles upon a hidden passageway concealed behind a portrait. Inside the passageway, she discovers a key that unlocks a door leading to a room filled with various boxes and a blood-stained floor. As she proceeds further into the room, she discovers yet another door, behind which she finds a woman screaming in terror at the sight of her. The woman is revealed to be Anna, who had not actually died as previously believed but was instead chained to her bed. This revelation shocks Hunter.
Leave (2023) Movie Ending, Explained:
What does Hunter discover about her origin, and is she able to escape the horrifying truth?
As Anna learned about Hunter’s presence, she was initially shocked and overjoyed, but the fear soon set in as she worried about the possibility of someone discovering Hunter’s whereabouts. In a hurry, she urged Hunter to leave, but Olaf walked in before Hunter could process what was happening. However, Anna and Hunter were able to overpower him. As they caught their breath, Torstein stormed into the room and attacked Hunter with a rod, rendering her unconscious.
As Hunter lay unconscious, she vividly envisioned Torstein speaking to his wife about how Satan had taken over Liv’s body, but there was still hope for Anna. Torstein proceeded to take Liv to the church and burn her alive, which explains the ghostly apparition of the burnt woman. Furthermore, Anna was not murdered but instead held captive by her father.
When Hunter regained consciousness, she found herself tied to a chair with Torstein standing before her, ranting about the sinfulness of women and how they needed to be “cleansed” of their evil. He then proceeded to brand Hunter’s body with a hot poker to exorcise the supposed Satan from her.
Suddenly, a commotion outside the room caught their attention, and it turned out that Kristian had arrived and taken down Olaf. Kristian fought Torstein, ultimately defeating him, but not before sustaining fatal wounds from Torstein’s knife. Anna and Kristian apologized to each other, but their reunion was short-lived as Kristian’s injuries proved fatal.
Hunter and Anna flee the house, but Anna grows exhausted and can no longer continue running. After leaving her to search for help, Torstein comes across Anna, holding an axe and questioning her about Hunter’s whereabouts. Upon finding Hunter, he strikes her down, leaving her unconscious, and proceeds to drag her across the ground. However, Anna regains consciousness and calls him a coward, showing him the cross she had been wearing.
Liv’s ghost appears, tormenting Torstein as Hunter emerges with his axe to kill him. Torstein ultimately meets his demise at Hunter’s hand, and Liv’s ghost disappears, seemingly at peace. Hunter then returns to Anna, who apologizes for abandoning her and reveals that she left Anna in a cemetery, hoping someone would find her. As Anna is recuperating at the hospital, Hunter’s adoptive father arrives, leading to a joyous reunion between father and daughter. The film ends on that note.