Kevin Bacon and Amanda Seyfried make an intriguing couple in the new aggressively titled psychological thriller “You Should Have Left”. Right off the bat you can’t help but notice the significant age difference (Bacon is a spry 61 while Seyfried is 34). It’s something the film is aware of and even has fun with (“You’re her dad?” a security guard sincerely asks Bacon). You may be able to squeeze some commentary out of their relationship, but the movie has other interests.
Bacon plays Theo Conroy, a wealthy ex-banker stained by a tabloid-rich scandal from his past involving the death of his first wife. Theo has steadily maintained his innocence and even the courts agreed with him. Still his high-profile case gained him unwanted notoriety and he hasn’t fared as well in the court of public opinion.￼ As a result Theo battles frequent nightmares as well as bouts with insecurity. He combats those issues by keeping a doctor-prescribed daily journal and quietly meditating to self-help lessons.
Seyfried plays Theo’s much younger wife Susanna with whom he shares a daughter, 6-year-old Ella (Avery Tiiu Essex). Susanna is a working actress, forever tethered to her cellphone, and seemingly impervious to how some of her choices may affect her husband.￼ Whether it’s constantly giggling and leaving the room when getting texts from a male co-star or having her husband visit the movie set on a day she’s filming a sex scene. Do you chalk it up to the age difference?￼ Is it Theo’s petty jealousy? Or is something else going on?
Realizing they need a getaway, Theo and Susanna rent the proverbial house in the middle of nowhere – a two-story modernist home in very rural Wales. Before the three have time to settle in we begin noticing peculiar things about the house’s design. It only get weirder as lights begin coming on by themselves. Doors appear one night but are gone the next. Spooky Polaroids start popping up. And someone (or something) has scribbled a chilling warning in Theo’s journal. “You should leave – go now” followed by “You should have left.”
At first it’s hard to watch and not think of “The Shining” just on a smaller scale. Clearly something’s up with the house and the longer the family stays there the more macabre things get. At the same time Theo begins to unravel in ways we’re used to seeing in these types of thrillers. But thankfully writer-director David Koepp gives his movie enough of its own identity to keep it from feeling like a routine genre exercise. He also tosses in some chilling and inspired twists. Unfortunately they run head-first into a clunky final reveal dump that basically takes place over a single phone call.
“You Should Have Left” is never really scary although it does occasionally get under your skin. I does some clever things with the haunted house formula which keep it from feeling tedious or redundant. At the same time you can’t help but notice some things that are undeniably familiar (especially if you’ve seen the recent and much better “Relic”). But the biggest draw is Kevin Bacon and even though this isn’t top quality material, it’s great to see him on screen again and he keeps us invested from start to finish.
VERDICT – 3 STARS