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You Shouldn’t Watch ‘You Should Have Left’

You Shouldn’t Watch ‘You Should Have Left’

You Shouldn’t Watch ‘You Should Have Left’
June 25
14:01 2020

“Somebody from here, Hans Eagle… he said an ant doesn’t know what a cathedral is or a power plant or a volcano. It’s the same with that house. You don’t know what you can’t know.”

When it comes to horror, haunted house movies are not only one of the best subgenres, they’re some of the best kinds of movies period. “The Shining,” “The Haunting,” and more. Some of the best, like “Hereditary,” and even those that only dip into horror, such as “Parasite,” utilize distinct and evocative locations that are arguably characters in and of themselves. It’s a very malleable subgenre as well, where stories’ galloping gangs of ghouls creeping out kids sit comfortably beside psychological tales of maddening isolation and emotional torment. Some of them even give audiences a bit of both. As of now, the freshest descendent of this lineage is “You Should Have Left,” based on the novella of the same name and adapted by David Koepp.

David Koepp has had a mixed career as both screenwriter and director — he’s made some pretty strong stuff, like the underrated “Premium Rush” and “Stir of Echoes,” also with Kevin Bacon, while he also wrote the screenplay to Tom Cruise’s 2017 “The Mummy” and directed the Johnny Depp abomination “Mortdecai.” Five years later, he’s reunited with Bacon for this project. So, will this give audiences gnarly goosebumps or send them to slumberland?

Well, the article is titled “You Shouldn’t Watch ‘You Should Have Left.'”

Compliments first – Kevin Bacon and co-star Amanda Seyfried are fine here. Bacon shows range here as both a reclusive father and a man in a terrifying situation. Seyfried also gets some good dialogue with double-meanings as a younger actress. The two both play off each other in an unhealthy marriage that gets some good exploration, but not nearly enough. The film is also frustratingly vague on what Bacon’s character does for a living, up until the end, and while some interviews discussed the age difference between the leads, it’s only occasionally mentioned in passing and doesn’t really contribute to the tension between the two. As a result, aside from their conflict and reactions to everything strange, there’s nothing to them. As for supporting characters, Avery Essex is decent as their daughter, Ella, but she’s not given much to do and it really comes across like Koepp doesn’t know how to write kids — ironic, since he wrote co-wrote “Jurassic Park.”

Of course, the foundation for a good haunted house flick is a unique or at least intriguing location that plants seeds of mystery and curiosity for audiences. The house must be a character in and of itself, but that’s not the case here.  Honestly, the Life House in Wales, which is where they filmed on-site, is a mixed bag. It’s this modernist series of rooms in a brick styling, and it’s fine, but it’s not a character in of itself. It starts to work near the end as Bacon’s character descends into this gray purgatory/hell and it seems to break the laws of physics just because. There’s no consistency, no rules to ground it in the world. By then it’s too little, too late.

What makes it such a letdown is the description it’s given by a shopkeeper (Colin Blumenau), who provides the above quote and talks about how it used to be some sort of tower the devil built to draw in souls. This is never really expanded upon and just serves to pour salt in the wound.  Couldn’t Koepp have made that movie? Or Robert Eggers, since that would make a hell of a “VVitch” sequel.

As for the scares, they’re. . . not great. Lots of flickery, digital shadows and jump scares. One especially heinous example is when Bacon wakes up a sleeping Seyfried, and there’s a scare cord as if she bolted right out of bed. The music is saying she’s freaking out, but in the actual frame, she’s just somewhat groggy and surprised. That’s it. The slow burn, punctuated by these lackluster jumpscares, is occasionally rewarding with a really creepy trio of reflections involving Bacon’s character and the house being shown to not entirely obey the laws of physics. An especially heinous crime is the use of a nightmare-within-a-nightmare — Nightmareception?

As for the music, I couldn’t tell you anything about it. The composer is another Koepp collaborator, Geoff Zanelli, and his work is forgettable.

The last complaint is that this movie just lacks any identity — it’s got elements of “Stir of Echoes,” Koepp’s “Secret Windows,” “Oculus,” “The Shining,” and even “Silent Hill,” whose ending this movie seriously rips off.

With the talent involved,  “You Should Have Left” could have been great. Instead, it’s a generic retread of so many more creative haunted house movies, and arguably even purgatory films like “Jacob’s Ladder” and Joel Schumacher’s (rest his soul) “Flatliners.” This just lacks creativity, ingenuity and even specificity where it really counts. What should be an engrossing mix of psychological and supernatural horror instead leaves the audience lost and horrified at the 93 minutes wasted on this.

Final rating: 1.75/5

Featured image: Courtesy Blumhouse Productions

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Will Tarpley

Will Tarpley

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