New Horror Releases: You Should Have Left (2020) - Reviewed

courtesy Universal Pictures
With cinemas shuttered all across the U.S. and drive-ins becoming the main go to point to see movies during the coronavirus outbreak, the new horror/thriller/mind trip flick You Should Have Left hit the streaming format last week to a mixed response. 

This latest movie which sees Kevin Bacon return to the same genre as Stir of Echoes, pits the main character against his own ego, a house which wants his soul, and a marriage that's quickly hitting the skids. When his family travels to Wales to escape the Hollywood life for an extended vacation, the architecture of their plan begins to crumble under their feet as their rental home unfurls into a mysterious labyrinth of strange happenings, creepy corridors, and a haunted maze that wants to keep them captive. Obvious thematic comparisons can be made to The ShiningUnfortunately enough, the material here is never quite as weighted as that Kubrick classic, but is still amplified by Bacon's total control of character. 

Based on the 2017 novella by Daniel Kehlmann, this adaptation skirts many of the plot elements of the original story leading to a short run time and a movie that definitely lacks many of the building blocks that would have made this a way better translation. However, Bacon manages to lift the material out of its standard haunting tropes and gives a great performance as a man dealing with his past moral shortcomings. Hated by the world for his previous wife's ambiguous death, Bacon does a phenomenal job as a man coping with his problematic past as he takes up a new life with a younger wife and daughter. As the home shows signs of evil, relationships begin to unravel causing a rift in the marriage and their sanity. 

courtesy Universal Pictures

Where You Should Have Left succeeds is at creating mystery and an undefined haunting that never gets a full explanation. Sometimes, in these types of stories we don't need everything served up on a platter of details. And many times, some elements are better left unsaid so the audience can make their own assumptions. We don't always need to see the monster if we know it exists somewhere in the background. You Should Have Left does that perfectly. If other directors would follow suit, we might see another wave of great thrillers or horror films. 

Lately, horror films have taken too many liberties, giving their audience too much background and way too many reasons why things are happening. Screenwriter and director David Koepp does an excellent job here creating a dark veil of subtlety that leaves plenty of room for us to fill in the blanks as the ever expanding house of horrors opens her doors to its victims. Creating a sense of dread that relies on lighting, stretched shots, and a defined sense of confusion, Koepp definitely finds new and interesting ways to turn a basic story into a methodical dive into one man's emotional madness. 

Many have taken issue with the film's shortcomings as it's getting some negative reviews and feedback. There probably is a better movie deep below the surface here. When put in perspective against hundreds of other horror or thrillers released in 2020, this was one of the stronger releases I've seen in a year that's been ravaged by a pandemic. Resting firmly on Kevin Bacon's shoulders with excellent support from Amanda Seyfried and the young Avery Essex, this deserves a rewatch for all the little details we might have missed the first time around.  No, it never reaches the heights of many other haunted house films, but there's something to be said for keeping it short, sweet, and intuitively bleak. 

If you're looking for something to fill some time and you need an escape from the family friendly doldrums that are consistently hitting the Netflix, the Primes and the Disney+, this is a suggested viewing that might take you out of your comfort zone. Kevin Bacon always delivers, even when the script might be lacking a hook.