‘You Should Have Left’ Review: This Haunted House Is Familiar

‘You Should Have Left’ Review: This Haunted House Is Familiar

‘You Should Have Left’ Review: This Haunted House Is Familiar

‘You Should Have Left’ Review: This Haunted House Is Familiar

A creepy abandoned house in the boondocks, a shadowy figure in the background, a mysterious man battling unnamed demons — even if you haven’t visited the Welsh spook-house in “You Should Have Left,” you’ve definitely been here before. The film, which was adapted by the director David Koepp from Daniel Kehlmann’s novel of the same name, aims for depth but only wades through shallow waters.

The retired, middle-aged Theo (Kevin Bacon) and his much younger actress wife, Susanna (Amanda Seyfried), venture to Wales with their young daughter, Ella (Avery Essex), for some bonding and R&R. The land is picturesque, but the house, an impersonal, aggressively modern design, seems to have been dreamed up by Doctor Who: It’s inexplicably bigger on the inside.

Some lukewarm scares (doors opening and shutting, as they’re wont to do in haunted houses) signal the fact that something isn’t quite right. And then there’s Theo, who’s suspiciously neurotic about people learning his identity; he’s widely hated and, on top of that, a recovering hothead. He tries to manage his thinly veiled rage and jealousy with journaling and meditation. But in his character, too, there’s something amiss.

What the film seems to want to build toward, as Theo angrily scrawls out his frustrations with his wife and wanders through the labyrinthine home, is a Jack Torrance-style breakthrough. Bacon, almost comical in Theo’s violent spasms of fear, delivers a more intriguing performance when he exudes an air of wrath, but that fierce tension isn’t maintained throughout. Meanwhile, we become lost in the house’s ever-expanding hallways and stairways, which draw the eye but remains the movie’s only real point of interest.

Sure, there’s Theo with his secrets, but he is ultimately forgettable, a cookie-cutter portrait of a protagonist — and that goes for the whole brood. Essex’s Ella, though reliably adorable, is ornamental, meant to do nothing more than heighten the stakes. Seyfried has even less to do.

Armed with allegory, the film cobbles together a slapdash religious metaphor involving damnation out of the workings of the house, what the house actually is and its relationship to Theo, who’s ensnared by its constant turns and shifting dimensions. Koepp’s screenplay fails to properly set the groundwork for the film’s final twist, instead dropping egregious and poorly incorporated hints on the sluggish march to a telegraphed conclusion. And the direction, too, feels languid, almost mechanical, with rote terrors and tones robbed from horror movies past.

Theo should have left the house right away — the title didn’t need to tell us. But “You Should Have Left” also offers us a dreary term of confinement. Time to head for the door.

You Should Have Left
Rated R. Running time: 1 hour 33 minutes. Rent or buy on Vudu and other streaming platforms and pay TV operators.


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