How Scary Is ‘Don’t Let Go’? The Murder Mystery Has A Uniquely Sci-Fi Twist
Blumhouse Productions is at it again with Don't Let Go, which hits theaters on Aug. 30. In it, Detective Jack Radcliff (David Oyelowo) tries to prevent the murder of his niece, Ashley (Storm Reid), and her parents. The twist here is that for Radcliff, the murder already happened, and the only way he can stop it is by speaking with his supposedly deceased niece, who calls him two weeks after her death. While the premise makes it sound like a ghost story or a creepy urban legend, just how scary is Don't Let Go?
Right at the top: This is a Blumhouse flick, and while production companies certainly aren't limited to creating movies in only one genre, this one has a reputation for creating some of the most memorable horror movies of the past two decades or so: Get Out, the 2019 Halloween reboot, the Purge and Paranormal Activity franchises, and so on. Moreover, the trailer itself has all the hallmarks of a good horror flick: a muted color palette; an eerie, slowed-down version of the Four Tops classic, "Reach Out (I'll Be There)"; plenty of smash cuts; and creepy, disjointed guitar picking. Considering all of these factors and judging by the trailer alone, Don't Let Go could totally pass as a horror flick.
But calling this a horror movie would technically be incorrect. In a chat with Kevin Smith for IMDb, director Jacob Estes (whose other credits include Rings, Mean Creek, and The Details) explicitly said Don't Let Go is not a horror movie. That isn't to say it's not scary, however. "It's a really stressful movie to watch," the director continued. In that very same chat, Oyelowo described the film as a psychological thriller, which definitely feels more accurate to the core of the story as it's been presented so far. On top of that, John DeFore's review for The Hollywood Reporter from Sundance (where Don't Let Go premiered under the title Relive) described it along similar lines, calling it a mix between a murder mystery and a time travel adventure, and pointing out that some sections as "noirish."
When you put the horror flick trappings of the trailer aside (clever edits, creepy music), the film casts a more mysterious shadow, one that promises thrills rather than chills. There's a lot of focus on Radcliff's struggle with keeping track of the diverging timelines while also helping his niece unlock the mystery of her own murder. As with most good mysteries, there's a lot of opportunity for twists and turns, particularly with Don't Let Go's interesting take on the murder mystery premise.
Of course, there's still certainly capacity for some potential jump scare moments, as it's hard to imagine any Blumhouse picture that doesn't try to take advantage of the exquisite tension they're so skilled at building. And, granted, people do react differently when presented with blood, murder, and violence, depending on how afraid they are of such things, so it's probably a good idea to take the trailer's quick shot of bloodied bodies into account when deciding if Don't Let Go is scary or not. But, for most, it's likely a safe bet that Don't Let Go won't have you sleeping with your lights on for the next week.