It’s basically “The Shining” with shadows and confusing hallways.
Movie theaters, including AMC and Regal, plan to reopen their doors next month, which is why we’ve been streaming movies online. I never watched the trailers for Blumhouse’s latest horror mystery “You Should Have Left,” but I did hear about it, and had to review, given my position as the film critic.
Looking at this movie, starring Kevin Bacon and Amanda Seyfried, it feels like a minor rip-off of “The Shining,” because evil takes place in the house they’re staying at, the environment is chilly, and the main protagonist is a writer with a troubled past. As effective as Bacon’s performance is and as interesting as the plot twist is, it ends up being obvious and routine.
Based on Daniel Khelmann’s novel, Bacon is the rich, retired banker and screenwriter Theo Conroy, Seyfried is his younger actress wife Susanna with a new project in London, and newcomer Avery Tiiu Essex (young Claire on ABC’s “Modern Family”) is their little girl Ella, who calls her father “Baba,” and questions about the meaning of life and death.
Theo is accused of drowning his first wife in a bath tub, which is why people loathe him, and why he has been having nightmares of his little girl dying. He also suspects his wife is having an affair with someone at work. And to top it off, someone writes in his journal “You should have left. Now, it’s too late.”
To be closer together, they rent a place in Wales. The house is owned by a fellow by the name of Stetler. No, he and Theo have never met, nor has he seen a picture of him. For some reason, when Ella knocks over a glass of water, the water becomes separated, and the inside of the house measures 5 feet longer than on the outside. Ella asks: “How does that work?,”and Theo responds: “It doesn’t.” But mostly, the hallways and doors begin to throw Theo off track in mysterious ways.
Also a producer, Bacon works when he struggles to overcome his past and when he has difficulty processing the Hell he’s entering. We see him in his downfalls, and writer/director David Koepp (the writer of “Jurassic Park” and the director of “Secret Window”) guides him with interesting aspects.
I was also impressed by its location and visual appeal. It was filmed at the Life House in Llanbister, Radnorshire, and it looks fascinating. We see it in its normal format, and when all Hell breaks loose, we see hallways that lead Bacon back to the same room, and the deceased wife coming back to haunt him.
But the movie ends up with the same things we’ve seen done better or we don’t really need. The wife is blandly presented, despite Bacon accusing her of having an affair and having an argument with her, which is why she leaves for a day. So, she’s unable to be part of the horrors that emerge within the house. The little girl is a generic movie girl acting all cute and innocent, and the movie thinks it would be funny if she said “god damn it” in the opening shot. Is it an unwritten rule that these women in these kinds of psychological thrillers have to be standard? It better not be, because I’m frankly annoyed by it.
There were times that I did enjoy “You Should Have Left,” and times when I pondered on whether or not we needed all these obligatory elements. I think not, so I’d like to check out please.
Available on AppleTV, Fandango Now, Google Play, Amazon Prime, Xfinity, Vudo, and many other streaming services.