From taking an arrow through his neck to using invisibility for breast-groping purposes, Kevin Bacon is no stranger to horror thick with pulp.
Although it seems like the kind of horror film destined for the doldrums of February, the Baconator’s latest vehicle, You Should Have Left, is a pretty classy flick. That’s because writer-director David Koepp is at the helm, reuniting with Bacon nearly 20 years after Stir of Echoes, another elegantly spooky haunted-house movie.
You Should Have Left is refreshing in the sense that its exploration of ordinary-life struggles is just as compelling as its descent into the otherworldly.
Loosely based on a novella of the same name by German author Daniel Kehlmann, the film follows a retired banker named Theo Conroy (Bacon), who garners dirty looks wherever he goes due to a dark chapter of his past that played out on the world’s stage. His wife, Susanna (Amanda Seyfried), is more comfortable being in the spotlight as a film actress. Their young daughter, Ella (Avery Essex), is the glue that holds the family together in the face of the couple’s significant age difference and Theo’s gnawing suspicions. Between watching his wife’s sex scenes, seeing her flirt with co-stars and hearing her constantly typing away on her phone, he can barely hide the jealousy and paranoia boiling inside of him.
The natural remedy for relieving this tension is a getaway at a foreboding mansion in the Welsh hillside. The black brick behemoth has exposed windows resembling facial features — like those of the abyss that stares back when you gaze long into it.
Theo spends most of the trip facing his demons. Although the house’s seemingly endless hallways and winding staircases are certainly unsettling, his emotional path toward confronting his wife and sorting through the skeletons in his closet is ultimately more engaging. In fact, one of the tensest scenes involves him trying to dig up dirt on Susanna’s mobile devices while she’s in the next room.
Koepp wisely keeps most of the focus on Theo and Susanna rather than the supernatural elements emerging around them. Bacon and Seyfried make you feel the fragility of the couple’s relationship. And Essex’s wholesome innocence makes their hurtful flaws all the more tragic.
Predictably and unfortunately, the third act of the film turns into a mere funhouse ride. But there’s some subtle, effective humor in how Theo deals with the house’s maze-like traps. For example, he quietly loses his shit when he struggles to open the front door, unaware that he simply has to unlock it.
You Should Have Left is one of Bacon’s better entries in the horror genre. It’s lightyears better than his last haunted house movie, 2016’s The Darkness, in which he delivers one of the worst lines in recent memory: “It’s not ghosts. It’s Michael’s autism manifesting itself in new ways.” Jesus Christ.
You Should Have Left won’t haunt your dreams, but it’s a spooky, fun VOD diversion from the fact that the world is ending.