You Should Have Left (2020)

I have previously written only two reviews of films as they were released on video: Dumbo and Fifty Shades of Grey. This is inline with those. A family moves into a house and weird things start to happen. Accomplished films with this premise in recent memory; Insidious, Paranormal Activity, and Sinister have all been produced by one man Jason Blum. So it makes some sense for Blum to hire a guy like David Koepp, who for his eighth directed feature re-teams with the star of sophomore film Stir of Echoes from 1998: Kevin Bacon. The resulting problem with this material doubles as its greatest strength, familiarity.

I’ve talked about emotional chronology in movies. Put to best effect in 2019’s Little Women. Writer/ Director Greta Gerwig knows the audience has seen some version of this story before so instead of using basic narrative chronology it instead jumps back and forth in time and space for maximum emotional punch. Like an A+ student studying for a test anyone can open a book to a random page and the student in this case the audience, who are horror experts can guess exactly what’s going on. This has led to what many critics have described this film as six different movies in one. It has the haunted dreams of Stir of Echoes, the haunted house of Poltergeist, the marital rift of Antichrist, the modern design of houses from Sinister & Hereditary and the personal hauntings of Insidious films. Despite the multiple trappings You Should Have Left is always visually and spatially coherent. Towards the end of the film Theo runs through a hallway and is transported to many different places in the house. Koepp doesn’t need dwell on these surprises too much because the beauty of the film nicely photographed by Angus Hudson is that its images are so clear cut they don’t require explanation. It’s also a credit to editor Derek Ambrosi that I never felt as lost as the characters did in the film. I was willing to go through any door or passageway the film went. And I wish the filmmakers went further even if it abandoned logic.

Kevin Bacon’s character Theo (the protagonist in the screenplay I’m writing!) ends up with the opposite result. He is haunted by the ghost of his previous marriage and when he finds a house to rent with his wife and daughter the new setting brings with it haunting dreams and time jumps. Time must have skipped for Theo because despite being sixty one years old he has a thirty five year old wife and a six year old daughter. It’s because of this age difference I found the central relationship hard to believe and Theo’s relationship with his daughter seems distant in a way that diminishes the emotional stakes. The filmmakers try to make up for this by making his wife Susanna (Amanda Seyfried) an actress who does sex scenes and may have a fling with one of her costars and giving Bacon the backstory a previous marriage turned deadly but they could have developed this aspect a bit more. For all the tension mined out of their differences you have a hard time believing their marriage in the first place or that his daughter is his biologically. Making him a step dad would have been another cliche Koepp could have indulged in along with making Theo a writer, an artist or an architect since all his original ideas with the exception of a modern house don’t seem to work as well as weaponizing cliches. Using the audience’s familiarity with the trappings of genre against them with the lack of phone service, the overflowing bathtub, impossible shapes, nightmares and dead ends is the way to go that the movie only hints at.

Kevin Bacon is an interesting actor. I find him similar in everything he plays and despite him being around and connected to everyone in Hollywood by six degrees it’s hard to figure him out. I was born around the mid nineties, thirteen years after Bacon broke out playing a dead teenager in Friday the 13th. And nine years after his best known role in Footloose. As a result the first prominent role I saw him in was Hollow Man (Jason Blum recently produced the similar Invisible Man) so I always associate him with a creep factor. I have yet to see his best reviewed role as a child molester in Nicole Kassell’s The Woodsman. And Bacon does play a creep as a dual role in You Should Have Left and has some experience working with Blumhouse in 2016’s The Darkness (now available on U.S. Netflix) so this film had all the foundations of making a solid hit but the creep factor is too small, plain and almost meaningless that I had to look up the name of the creep to find its actually quite vital to the plot.

Amanda Seyfried
In the end the one logistical concern I wish the filmmakers did abandon is the Hollywood trope of casting younger women opposite older men. We have a 27 year age gap in Amanda Seyfried (34) opposite Kevin Bacon (61) that gap is older than I am. I don’t care who they are starring opposite a sixty one year old is gross unless it directly and thematically correlates to the plot. The movie is also too slighted towards Theo that the couple’s marriage seems more one sided and thus doesn’t realize its thematic potential. Bacon’s real life wife Kyra Sedgwick would have made way more sense in the role and have added a lot more than Seyfried whose character name Susanna I had to look up. For reference when Bacon was Seyfried‘s age A Few Good Men had just come out on VHS, I was one year old, and Amanda Seyfried was in Grade 4. When the age difference is the creepiest thing about your film it is long past time that You Should Have Left.

Rating: C

State your point in the comments below...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s