The marriage of Universal and Blumhouse has been a fairly satisfying one. Their latest collaboration, which likely would’ve been a box office hit (at least in opening weekend), is out on VOD. “You Should Have Left” stars Kevin Bacon and Amanda Seyfried and is partially based on a 2017 novella by Daniel Kehlmann.
The title and general premise remain intact: a husband, wife and young daughter rent a vaction home in the Wales countryside. When they arrive, they’re immediately taken by the striking look of the house — its contemporary facade and complex interior. But before long the house starts to effect them — and not in a good way. All three become somewhat anxious and confused.
Bacon plays Theo Conroy, the older husband with the dark past. His much younger wife Susanna (Seyfried) is a movie actress. They clearly love each other (and young daughter Ella, played by Avery Tiiu Essex). But there’s an unmistakeable generation gap between the two. Theo’s suspicious of Susanna’s relationships with other men. Susanna may be suspicious of Theo — for something else. He also doesn’t get her obsession with texting. This is comes to a head in one of the film’s best scenes.
Around 30 minutes in writer/director David Koepp reveals to us the mental burden Theo has been carrying for years, which has been causing horrific nightmares. Those nightmares escalate while he’s inside the vacation home. Pretty soon he’s convinced the house is starting to play tricks on him. Or is this, and his suspicions about his wife, all in his imagination?
Much of the haunted house stuff is pretty standard, but Koepp does have fun playing with shadows, light, lights and angles throughout the numerous rooms. His direction is vivid, though the creative vision gets a little cyclical in the second half.
“You Should Have Left” is 80-85% psychological family relationship dramatic thriller. And I prefer these to all-out blood and guts horror films. Koepp incorporates some stylistic genre staples, but he only goes for one total “cop-out”: constantly putting the 6-year-old girl in danger.
It’s Bacon and Essex who carry this movie. The duo (at opposite ends of the acting profession age spectrum) are quite convincing together in multiple father-daughter scenes. Seyfried’s limited role reduces her to playing Bacon’s foil.
Some story details have been taken directly from the novella, others (including the major dramatic component) are new. And not everything fits together cohesively. But this is a rare occasion when a modern horror/thriller features a satisfying ending – and a title that completely make sense.
“You Should Have Left” isn’t a classic, but you should… give it a chance.
LCJ GRADE: B-
Running Time: 93 min.