From Blumhouse Productions, the company that helped produced The Invisible Man, Get Out, and many more, comes a new horror film: You Should Have Left. The movie was written and directed by David Koepp, adapted from the novel of the same name. It follows former banker Theo (Kevin Bacon), his actress wife Susanna (Amanda Seyfried), and their young daughter Ella as they vacation at an isolated home in the Welsh countryside. However, their plan to enjoy relaxing quality time with each other is soon abandoned, as Theo’s jealously over Susanna and her secretiveness threatens to unravel them, and the house they rent has a few sinister secrets of its own.
Right away the movie teases some of the suspense that becomes more prevalent as the story progresses. We’re introduced to a recurring nightmare all three family members have, including a creepy man who seems to be everywhere. Though the sequence lasts only a few minutes, it sets the tone for the rest of the movie. The scene will also sit in the back of your mind, bringing up questions that get answered later. It leaves a nagging, unnerving feeling behind, bolstering the mystery and other psychological elements of the movie.
Character-wise, the movie functions well by focusing primarily on the three family members, with the occasional secondary character making an appearance. Doing so keeps you invested in the family’s plight without losing interest. It also enhances the general sense of isolation, creating an almost claustrophobic feeling. Bacon and Seyfried play well off each other, bringing the tense relationship of Theo and Susanna to life in a believable way. Susanna’s more gentle nature is contrasted by Theo’s slightly more stern personality, which is made especially clear as Theo’s jealousy and mistrust grow, and the house begins to more deeply affect him. Their daughter Ella (played by Avery Tiiu Essex) continues to add to the contrast with her playful spirit and overall bright and colorful appearance. Regardless of her seemingly carefree spirit, Ella intuits her parents’ struggle, with each other and Theo’s internal struggle with his past and his present.
Another way the movie demonstrates the isolation of the family is through the production design (Sophie Becher), art direction (Adam Marshall and Kiera Tudway), set decoration (Clare Andrade and Emily Deason), and the costume design (Susie Coulthard and Karen Malecki). First is the house itself, which initially appears idyllic and the perfect place for a relaxing getaway with the family, set against the gorgeous and peaceful scenery of the countryside. Inside, the house provides plenty of space for the family, Theo mentioning how it’s bigger on the inside, foreshadowing events to come later. As the movie progresses, however, the house becomes more and more unwelcoming. None of the rooms have carpeting. The walls are made from concrete and brick. The only colors to be found are muted grays, blues, and greens. Besides the family’s belongings, there are no personal items that would lead you to believe anyone lived in the house, regardless of the standard furnishings. It adds to the unsettling nature of the setting, building towards the end. The wardrobe of the family continues to emphasize this, with Theo and Susanna wearing inconspicuous clothes, but Ella remaining as colorful as ever.
The visual aesthetic continues to reinforce the creepiness through the cinematography (by Angus Hudson). As a whole, the film is shot beautifully, each scene reflecting its respective tone, whether it be a scene establishing the characters, or the devolution of the house and Theo. Hudson uses a variety of shots to create a certain distance between the viewer and the house while also pulling you into it and keeping you close to the family. The lighting also enhances the atmosphere of the setting, especially in the later, much more tense and heart-pounding scenes.
Overall, You Should Have Left is worth watching if you’re searching for something new. At a runtime of 93 minutes, the movie is concise and fully utilizes that time to tell its story. Koepp using general suspense rather than jump scares works in the movie’s favor (although there were a couple moments that really got me). It’s a great choice for those who aren’t normally big fans of horror movies but are looking for something different to try out.
You Should Have Left is available now on DVD and digital.