• Nate Adams

Review: Blumhouse clunker 'You Should Have Left' painfully dull


Courtesy of Universal

Dumped on the release schedule at the last second, David Koepp’s airless thriller “You Should Have Left” could be the biggest misdirect of 2020. It features two recognizable stars: Kevin Bacon and Amanda Seyfried, and is produced under the Blumhouse banner which, “Fantasy Island” notwithstanding, has a decent horror track record. Distributor, Universal Studios, has marketed the film in the premium video-on-demand format, a medium used to release two of their pictures: “Trolls: World Tour” and “The King of Staten Island” of which have been moderate successes.


But in this case, I’m not sure “premium” could apply to any molecule of “You Should Have Left,” a junkie horror flick that has managed to sink two decent actors to new career lows. Asking a consumer to hand over any “premium” price for this obvious direct-to-DVD snafu should be cause for litigation.


Koepp, a filmmaker who used to have keen writing sensibilities on projects like “Spider-Man,” “Jurassic Park” and directed the very funny “Ghost Town” starring Ricky Gervais, backs himself into the most headache-inducing narrative plot device of the 21st century: the haunted house.


Bacon plays blacklisted screenwriter Theo Conroy, whose troubled past causes friction in his professional and personal life. Most notably with his wife, Susanna (Seyfried) - an actress who complains about “porny” sex scenes (that’s actual dialogue) - and six-year old daughter Ella (Avery Tiiu Essex). There’s rumors swirling in the industry that Theo may have been responsible for the drowning of his wife, and no matter how many audio books on self-help and mediation he listens to, the burden of the tragedy constantly weighs on him: often causing vivid-like nightmares.


So to escape the madness, the family books a trip to a countryside villa in Wales for a weekend of reflection and relaxation. Looking like it was shot on a poorly lit soundstage, the trio settle into their new vacation hot-spot only to discover strange lurkings in the shadows, and Theo’s constant inkling that something isn’t quite right. He documents his feelings in a journal, and when the cryptic note “You should leave” populates on the page, it feels like an olive branch to the audience member to let them know it’s okay to turn the TV off.


Regardless of your opinions of Bacon and Seyfried, their awkward age gap leaves them devoid of any and all chemistry, especially in tense situations when they argue about when they should tell Ella - who calls her dad “Bubba” - the truth about her mother. Another instance later on deals with a spat of infidelity and if not for that Universal logo at the beginning of the picture, one could make the case this was made for the Lifetime movie channel.


“You Should Have Never Left” doesn’t strive for any originality, as most of its main elements are a menagerie of tactics used in countless haunted house flicks. But you do hope for a its-so-bad-it's-good kinda thing to manifest and justify the investment of your time, yet when you notice in the first thirty minutes how the framing is off, the jump cuts are choppy, and the underscore is practically non-existent, all of that speculation gets thrown out the window. Not to mention the countless unanswered questions that undermine some decently crafty elements: like how the house becomes a twisty time-travel portal that zips through reality.


Alas, could the title be one big joke and we’re just missing the punchline? Maybe “You Should Have Left” is a metaphor for those poor souls that fork over money to watch this? Or a filmmaking team that gave up halfway through the shoot and decided not to finish the movie? If anything, take the title as a sign, this is one haunted house you should avoid.


Grade: D-


YOU SHOULD HAVE LEFT is now available on various digital on-demand platforms.