Kevin Bacon – the face of the EE mobile network – is now the latest face of Blumhouse Productions in creepy horror, You Should Have Left. Opening with a family portrait of Bacon’s Theo, his wife Susanna (Amanda Seyfried), and daughter Ella (Avery Essex), a creepy and suspenseful ambience is established early on. Instead of being tricked into falling for a jumpscare, we are treated to a taster of the subsequent bizarreness appearing semi-frequently throughout this horror film.
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For Theo, life is a bit of struggle. With a journal by his side, Theo attempts to establish peace within his mind, but he’s failing. From nightmares to the overwhelming negativity towards and surrounding him, Theo has no choice but to escape to a holiday home of sorts with his wife and child. A successful man with an actress wife, there is a clear lack of financial limitations as they decide on renting not just a house in the countryside, but a house in the Welsh countryside. This trip across the Atlantic sees a transition to a Welsh village where the locals are out of this world and the holiday home is straight out of hell.
Like many a great horror, the concept of family plays an integral part, though only for two thirds of this film. The opening act explicitly explores Theo’s issues as he deals with insecurity and a mysterious, yet extraordinarily troubled past. Externally, the obvious age gap between Bacon’s Theo and Seyfried’s Susanna is potentially an issue as an outdated (and slightly awkward) trope – and is certainly a cringe-fest when questioned by the daughter. Approximately halfway through You Should Have Left, the creepiness extends beyond the marriage age gap, and swifts into full flow, establishing an atmospheric horror in the same vein as The Shining and Poltergeist.
In family-centric horror, it is only natural to align oneself with the characters within. The heroic father? The annoying kids? We’re familiar with them all. However, in You Should Have Left, there is a difficulty in active support or alignment in either Theo or Susannah. The former is a perfect example of toxic masculinity, plus Bacon is in sleaze overdrive during the first act or so. With the latter of the two, Susannah is infinitely more innocent than Theo – or is she? A terrific mother, yes. A loyal wife? Well… There is an underlying suggestion that she’s sleeping with others, though this could just be a surveyance from Theo’s perspective. As an actress with a responsibility to perform sex scenes, Theo responds with jealousy and the desire to surpass the level of explicitness which he sees his wife engage in (fictionally).
Ultimately, David Koepp’s You Should Have Left views like a film struggling to establish its true or best direction. The concept of the creepy house has been done (and done terrifically well) a million times before, but we keep coming back. There’s an obsession with the haunted or creepy house that seems to always attract our attention, but in You Should Have Left, is the house the true horror or does that lie elsewhere?
You Should Have Left is out now on Digital Download, and on DVD and Blu-ray on 12th October.