One Degree of Kevin Bacon

‘You Should Have Left’ is a thinly-constructed haunted-house movie from Blumhouse

Brisk, taut, and reveling in dramatic shorthand to a fault, You Should Have Left (available in VOD) plays like a Cliffs Notes version of itself, summarizing relationships and conflicts with quick dispatch so the focus can go back to jump scares and slammed doors. It’s a superficially effective cut-to-the-chase psychological horror film that’s not very horrific and really just more of a psych-out.


YOU SHOULD HAVE LEFT ★★ (2/5 stars)
Directed by: David Koepp
Written by: David Koepp
Starring:Kevin Bacon, Amanda Seyfried, Avery Essex, Geoff Bell, Lowri-Ann Richards
Running time: 93 min


 

“Don’t curse unless you want to be cursed,” hisses a mysterious blue-collar apparition who menaces potty-mouthed 6-year-old Ella Conroy (Avery Essex) during a bad dream. “Goddamned nightmares,” grumbles equally haunted father Theo (Kevin Bacon), who also tends to get them a lot. So, too, does second wife Susanna (Amanda Seyfried), a successful actress half his age.

You Should Have Left
‘You Should Have Left’: as a reward for an acquittal in the murder of his first wife, Kevin Bacon gets to marry a wet Amanda Seyfried.

This family doesn’t sleep well for good reason: years before, a jury acquitted Theo, a high-living finance type, of murdering his first wife in a bathtub. He’s retired now, but still suffers anger-management issues that require logging lots of hours on some Deepak Chopra app. The open-faced, open-hearted Susanna seems to loves him regardless, even though he angers easily if someone hints at his past. Since she’s about to embark on an 8-week film shoot in the UK, the family decides to spend some quality time together in a posh Welsh rental.

The cold, strangely under-furnished house is one of those modern architectural wet dreams, all concrete-and-brick with luxurious wooden doors and well-appointed lighting. “I love this!” Susanna squeals when they enter the harsh-edged abode. Um, ok. It’s an odd-looking home which they found online—Theo says that Susanna send him the info about it, although Susanna swears he sent her the link. Cue spooky music.

Bacon plays Theo as brittle and bitter, wavering between full keep-it-together mode and rampant psychopath explosion. Seyfried, meanwhile, couldn’t be more charmingly well-adjusted. Why this couple is together is anybody’s guess. And, since they share a child, they’ve clearly been a couple for at least seven years. Why did she go for this guy, especially since strangers still vaguely recognize him as That Rich Banker Who Drowned His Wife? Was she just a budding ingenue when they met, or was her career established? Had she no idea about his media-obsessed trail, or was that part of his appeal? So many questions, so few answers.

All you need to know is that You Should Have Left features a haunted house. That blue-collar creep pops up again, and he’s apparently Stetler, the former owner of the house. Spoiler alert: the guy looks a lot like Kevin Bacon because it’s actually Kevin Bacon under a lot of make-up. Also, one of the locals tells Theo to check the house’s right angles, and gives him a plastic triangle ruler to do the job. Sure enough, nothing’s “right” in the rental. Even weirder: the interior of the living room is four feet longer than the exterior. Suddenly the location is like an Escher drawing, with physically impossible layouts and passages that lead into each other. Dream logic! Also, someone keeps scrawling messages in Theo’s rage-therapy journal. YOU SHOULD HAVE LEFT, it says, GO NOW. Orchestral menace swells as viewer interest wanes.

Low-budget horror factory Blumhouse produced this hyperventilating sliver of gothic goosebumps, a well-acted, handsomely executed, fundamentally flawed Boo! flick that shoots blanks instead of chills. It’s got a genuinely creepy premise at its core that involves an ancient tower, damned souls, and the devil himself. But it loses its promise in so many dank, dark concrete corridors. “You don’t know what you can’t know,” says a local townsman. What he said.

You Should Have Left
‘You Should Have Left’: Kevin Bacon stars as Kevin Bacon (Blumhouse).

Stephen Garrett

Stephen Garrett is the former film editor of 'Time Out New York’ and has written about the movie industry for more than 20 years. He is also the founder of Jump Cut, a marketing company that creates trailers and posters for independent, foreign-language, and documentary films.

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