Don’t Leave Home is a fine mood piece. This is Get Out for the Irish Catholic set. I say this not to be reductive but prescriptive; Michael Tully’s new work is an easy recommendation. This is a breezy, contemplative piece about an artist who’s going into art residency at an old Irish manor, stock with creepy butler and recluse painter withholding big secrets.
Our artist, Melanie (Anna Margaret Hollyman), creates in miniature. Like this year’s landmark horror event, Hereditary, there is a confluence between what is going on in the real world and the design of these small dioramas. (Let’s call it a big credit that it can hold these comparisons.) This film functions within a diorama logic, cast into this big mansion that inevitably leaves characters feeling doll-like themselves; from the creepy butler to the strange, powdered wig society who come to bid on the latest arts, there is an abstraction where everything is not merely as it seems.
Not a whole lot happens in Don’t Leave Home. I found this completely fine, as I connected with it on a few different levels beyond its plotting. It’s coherently themed and establishes cohesive concepts and lets them register a specific aesthetic throughout. It’s rather nicely shot too, especially good at conveying the outdoor countryside when the feeling shifts from dioramic to panoramic.
We are now experiencing Get Out as a genre, which is perfectly fine by me. That is to say, Don’t Leave Home is a bit more than structurally influenced. It returns to many of those same beats. And, well, when you’ve got a big rural home with ominous ritualistic tones, there are only so many ways to go. I would like to suggest that Get Out is the best way to go. So, when she enters the house for a chilling tea party or there’s a bizarre Old White Money auction within, we know where those things are coming from.
Don’t Leave Home is a good curiosity piece. Often this is the product of a director just getting his feet wet, creating a captivating mood piece to sell a future idea. I think Irish Catholic horror—especially those built of guilt and repentance—make for a useful horror fixture. It’s a success where larger modern horror is not, evoking a consistent tone that’s stayed with me well after my viewing. Don’t Leave Home is a tonally competent and fun horror surprise at the festival, and we can’t wait to see what the director does next.