You Should Have Left
Adapted from Daniel Kehlmann’s 2017 novel, You Should Have Left is the latest release from Blumhouse Productions starring Amanda Seyfried alongside the returning Kevin Bacon, who graces the silver screen in his first feature-length appearance since 2016. There is always a chilling tingle of fear that shoots down your spine as the Blumhouse title card rolls, although this is often accompanied by a sense of scepticism, mainly because the studio’s portfolio is so incredibly hit and miss. With a Stephen-King-feel lathered all over it, the novel was a critical success as a psychological horror, so the material was there for a film that could arguably become a nerve-jangling thriller. The real proof comes in the pudding, however, so Blumhouse has had their work cut out.
In this adaptation directed by David Koepp, Theo – played by Bacon – is a tired writer suffering from his own demons of his past that appears in the form of graphic nightmares, jealousy and personal insecurity. The shining lights in his life are his wife Susanna (Seyfried) and their innocent daughter Ella (Avery Essex). In desperate need of a getaway and out of view from the judgemental eyes of Los Angeles, the family take a trip to a remote corner of Wales, renting an enormous modern country house, so isolated that phone signal has likely never reached its walls (pity). The longer the family remain there, the more they are plagued by shadows, random opening doors and nightmares each time they attempt to get some shuteye. Before long, Theo discovers the inexpressive house has a past of its own but is it as sinister as his?
As a book, the premise holds its own with tension building steadily as the pages turn. However, as a film, it just can’t quite decide what it wants to be. At first, You Should Have Left tees itself up to be another classic horror flick, sending a joyful family off into the wilderness where no one will ever hear them scream. This is acceptable as a foundation, but the downside is that it all happens too quickly. Within the first 15 minutes the family are already residing in the house they are set to remain in for the remaining 75 minutes, hampering any significant character development before plunging them into impending doom.
The cinematography and score are, much like the house, incredibly crafted but lacking the gloss and snappiness needed to elevate it into the higher echelons of its genre. It’s torn between embracing the psychological elements and jump scares, instead of resting in an uncertain medium.
However, there is solace to be found in You Should Have Left’s performances. It is certainly refreshing to see Bacon back on screen, even if it is in a role that constantly plays on the stereotypes surrounding a man of his age. He shows his experience and style as he graces each scene as a man tackling emotional trauma, encapsulating the mood and tone expertly. Together, Seyfried and Bacon perform well, and Seyfried proves herself to be a very convincing horror actor, despite her character being written out of the third act. There is also a fantastic show from young Essex as Ella, who, at just nine years of age, demonstrates she is more than capable of taking on such a pivotal role in a tightly casted feature.
The movie might have benefitted, believe it or not, from being a little longer. You Should Have Left ramps up the tension and pace as we reach the hour mark, but then slams the door in your face abruptly. The ending leaves you unsatisfied, tying up loose ends in an instant. Any third act confrontation evaporates before your eyes as the protagonists instantly accept their fate. This, along with the rushed opening scenes, results in an uneven screenplay that ultimately translates identically onto the screen. Nice try, Blumhouse, but no cigar this time.
You Should Have Left is released digitally on demand on 29th September 2020.
Watch the trailer for You Should Have Left here: