Few Scares in This Haunted House
Movie Reviews

Few Scares in This Haunted House

You Should Have Left is the film adaptation of German author Daniel Kehlmann’s hit novella. The horror aspects were apparently lost in translation. You Should Have Left offers a few initial frights before devolving to standard haunted house drudgery. A strong lead performance from Kevin Bacon elevates the lackluster script; but not enough to compensate for the lack of scares. The third act becomes a jumble of hallways and stairwells with a nary a boo to report.

Kevin Bacon stars as Theo Conroy, a former banker with a hinted troubled past. Amanda Seyfried co-stars as Susanna, Theo’s much younger actress wife. They have a precocious six-year-old daughter, Ella (Avery Essex), who’s particularly fond of playing hide and seek. Theo is annoyed after visiting Susanna on a Los Angeles film set. The security guards treat him poorly. He’s also embarrassed by the racy sex scene she’s filming. Theo convinces Susanna they should all take a vacation before her next film shoot.

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The family rents a large, modern house in the remote Welsh countryside. Ella is the first to notice strange happenings in her bedroom. Theo doesn’t understand the home’s architectural design. Warning messages appear mysteriously in Theo’s daily journal. They all start having terrifying nightmares. The mood further sours when Ella asks what happened to her father’s first wife.

You Should Have Left builds palpable tension in the beginning. The underlying mystery of Theo’s first marriage starts a slow boil with the bizarre occurrences at the house. There’s genuine intrigue to the plot. That fizzles utterly when the film descends to standard horror tropes. The psychological effects of the unknown is lost to theatrics. What had been compelling turns the characters into rats trapped in a maze.

You Should Have Left is a puzzling miss from writer/director David Koepp. He’s had a brilliant career adapting bestselling novels to the big screen. You Should Have Left should have been a layup for the screenwriter of Jurassic Park, Panic Room, and Spider-Man. The film’s blasé and frightless climax is certainly not a reflection of the source material. My thought is that David Koepp concentrated too much on style versus substance. The shot selection, lighting, and editing of the labyrinthine house is good. It’s just not scary or interesting. Koepp needed to focus more on his script’s shortfalls.

Kevin Bacon and Amanda Seyfried work well together. The problem is that Seyfried vanishes from huge chunks of the film. Her character is established as pivotal early on, and then strangely written out as the plot progresses. There are major issues with how Susanna is handled. Amanda Seyfried is a fantastic actress. Her absence from the climax makes no sense at all.

You Should Have Left is a forgettable entry in the haunted house genre. The film falls apart midway and never regains its footing. Kevin Bacon and good lighting aren’t enough to rescue a poorly adapted script. You Should Have Left is a Blumhouse production. It is available to stream today on demand from Universal Pictures.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Movieweb.

Julian Roman at Movieweb

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