Whenever you travel to Europe, it really depends on the company you’re with. If you’re with the Griswolds, you get European Vacation. If you go with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy you fall in love and have really intense discussions. In the horror movie You Should Have Left, Kevin Bacon and Amanda Seyfried go to Europe with Blumhouse so a family vacation turns into a nightmare.
‘You Should Have Left’ but now Kevin Bacon and Amanda Seyfried are here
When Theo (Bacon) and Susanna (Seyfried) decide to rent a house in Wales, they think the quiet and seclusion will be good for their family. This is basically how every cabin in the woods movie begins. Suffice it to say, the lack of cell phone reception, and therefore ability to call for help, will not be appreciated for long.
The sorts of troubles Theo and Susanna had aren’t the kind that go away when you leave anyway. He has a notorious public past that follows him to Wales. She’s a movie star who does love scenes that make Theo even more uncomfortable than the grip that thinks he’s Susanna’s father. They’re already in a place of distrust when the house tells them You Should Have Left.
Meet the house that ‘You Should Have Left’
It is a cool house. It has long hallways and wide open spaces. At night, those hallways get very dark, but really every room in the house does. Those deep shadows work very well on your TV since this won’t be playing theaters anymore.
Theo’s obsession over details in the house are reminiscent of when Bacon tore up the house in Stir of Echoes. It’s a tad more subtle in You Should Have Left but Bacon playing obsessed is always a good show. He investigates the angles, weird liquid behavior and measurements.
The house ultimately becomes a surreal labyrinth from which there’s no escape, but it’s subtle. There aren’t big violent effects. You Should Have Left will creep you out with things that are just a tad off kilter, or by confronting Theo with reminders of things he’s trying to forget. Perhaps the house is punishing him for his sins.
Kevin Bacon + Amanda Seyfried = one messed up family
Theo’s relationship with his daughter Ella (Avery Essex) is cute. They have schtick together like a father would have with his daughter after four or five years. It also confronts Theo with real parenting. When she asks about death, that’s something parents eventually have to explain to their kids, even if they’re not in a horror movie.
You Should Have Left reveals what happened to Theo’s first wife early on. How to tell Ella about it is a real issue. A lot of parents come to marriages with a past. They may come up with the perfect plan to explain it, but kids don’t fit your perfect plans. One parent may be caught off guard and the other parent left out entirely.
The family drama is strong enough that some of their revelations are more shocking than the scary house. It’s a cliche to say horror only works when you care about the characters, but few filmmakers really get that.
Part of it is that writer/director David Koepp doesn’t get in your face about THESE ARE THE CHARACTERS. They’re subtle enough that you think you’re just learning enough backstory to explain why they’re in a scary situation. It turns out those clues are vital to the drama.
Whether it’s the horror or the drama that gets you in, You Should Have Left is a satisfying scary treat. It does the job and takes it seriously.