You’re not long into writer-director David Koepp’s You Should Have Left adaptation before its lead couple—the willfully mismatched Kevin Bacon and Amanda Seyfried—decide it’s time to leave their wildly extravagant Hollywood mansion for a bleak, Brutalist short-term lease in the Welsh countryside. That the wealthy couple somehow can’t stop raving about how great their relatively unexceptional rental is proves baffling. But it matches up well with the broader notion of a man called “the most successful screenwriter of all time” to trade his big-league Hollywood trappings for this Blumhouse-produced cheap mess of tropes and unfulfilled thrills that is the Stir of Echoes writer-director’s latest Bacon-fed psychological horror.
It’s easy enough to guess where You Should Have Left is going from its opening shot. But like its homebound lead, it’s also going nowhere, and it gets there through lazy plotting, half-assed characterization, and equally empty performances. After some dreams about a creepy custodian guy, Bacon’s Theo, starlet wife Susanna (Seyfried), and their 6-year-old daughter decide to escape their beautiful home for a not-as-great Wales abode that doesn’t even have their Olympic-size pool. Theo was apparently a newsworthy suspect in his wife’s death, and is now ostracized by society at large. He’s also bitter and insecure about his much-younger wife’s celebrity and Millennial status (She loves her phone! LOL!). Susanna, meanwhile, is seemingly written by an aging virgin who’s only seen women in movies. She’s a remorseless bitch who goes out of line with the kid, cheats, takes sensual baths, and asks her old husband “Do you want to have me in the car” before orgasming SO HARD. It’s strangely amateurish and borderline pathetic drivel from such a veteran, celebrated writer.
Anyway, it turns out, when they get to Wales, the rental house is sort of weird. There’s some arbitrarily drawn-out time dilation in there—for bored viewers and Theo alike—and while the angles and dimensions of the architecture don’t quite work out mathematically, it’s not even noticeable. And, withholding the most predictable spoilers, that’s the entire movie. All Theo’s jealousy, snooping, and the rest of his shallow backstory never really carries much meaning beyond rationale for why we might want the spooky house to mess with him in the most laughably innocuous ways possible. There’s an entire scene where it’s just Theo turning off lights but unable to find the switch for one, so he has to leave it on. Holy shit, right? Another scene sees spilled water kind of pool near a wall, so he measures the corner and finds out that, despite appearances, it’s not quite at a 90-degree angle. Is this place cursed or what?
For a never-scary horror-thriller, the most off-putting thing about You Should Have Left is that it’s 93 minutes. As brief as that is for a feature, the film endlessly feels like a 20-minute short needlessly extended for theaters—a prolonged Tales from the Crypt pastiche done better and mercifully briefer by The Ben Stiller Show’s Low Budget Tales of Clichéd Horror. Any subtlety is lost early on as the film devolves into its own final-act accidental metaphor of a maze of empty hallways. That this stark, almost literal Hell of an Airbnb is eventually revealed to still somehow have a “junk drawer”—complete with tape measure—is perfect, because that’s where this functional but utterly unexceptional trash belongs.
You Should Have Left
Director: David Koepp
Studio: Universal Pictures
Runtime: 93 minutes
Cast: Kevin Bacon, Amanda Seyfried, Avery Essex