Horror has become an increasingly difficult genre to master. Although most content creators keep things simple with shoestring budgets that ensure that even base level genre fans will keep their productions afloat, quality is a constant concern. Is it “trash good” or just trash? It’s a tough line to walk. By the time You Should have Left ended, I’m still not sure where it lies.
Kevin Bacon and Amanda Seyfried are an interesting duo to tackle this project. In case you’re incredulous about the age disparity between the two, the premise of the film deliberately involves a man in a relationship with a younger woman. I didn’t say it was a good premise, but it’s the premise nonetheless.
The actual plotline involves a creepy family outing straight out of a Stephen King story. After a rote little “we need to get away from it all” intro, the family of three (they have a young daughter for extra horror creep effect) is off to the isolated creep house. Tense music plays, shadows appear on the wall and the horror feel builds: for an extended period of time. Given that this is an hour and a half film, it’s a lot of stretching with little character development outside of Bacon.
We learn very early on that Bacon may or may not have killed his first wife: a specter that overcasts and informs the relationships therein. But by the time the passive aggressive wine drinking starts, the film isn’t really going anywhere. So much of You Should Have Left attempts to be touching or meaningful with little moments between Bacon and his daughter, but end up being ruined by the boring score or editing choice.
There’s an interesting kernel of an idea here involving dreams, guilt and psychosis (which the book source delves into on a grander scale), but You Should Have Left doesn’t really have much to say on the matter; relying heavily on jump scares and cheap atmospheric tricks. Instead of dwelling on the drama, the screenwriters eventually shift the focus on the mystery of the spook house, which only truly comes to light in the last 30 minutes. It’s our only semblance of mystery or intrigue.
I admire the attempt to recapture the magic of The Shining with Kevin Bacon, but this was a job for a better script and a tighter production. Watching Bacon get mildly irritated with everything around him for 45 minutes before anything meaningful happens is a bit of fun, but not enough to carry a film.