Theo Conroy (Kevin Bacon) is a wealthy retired banker who went through a highly-publicized trial when his first wife died tragically. It’s been many years since that incident, but people still give him glares and make comments when they recognize him. Theo has since remarried, to actress Susanna (Amanda Seyfried), and the couple has a young daughter Ella (Avery Essex). Theo has been having restless nights, waking up after vivid nightmares. He’s been listening to relaxation tapes, and writing his thoughts and feelings in a daily journal, but nothing seems to help. He’s also been growing suspicious that Susanna may be cheating on him—and arriving at her set while she was filming a sex scene didn’t help matters.
The couple decides to take a family vacation to a remote home in the Welsh countryside for some relaxation. However, when they arrive at their rental house, they discover an odd-looking modern home with a seemingly endless maze of doors and hallways. There is something off about this house—it seems bigger on the inside (did they rent the TARDIS?!), lights seem to randomly turn on, door randomly open and/or appear, they hear strange noises, and get the sense that there is someone or something in the house with them. Theo receives ominous warnings about the property from some locals as he heads into the village for groceries, and also finds statements telling him to leave scribbled into his journal. Theo’s nightmares and paranoia only seem to intensify, he starts to experience lost time, and he’s not sure what is a dream and what is real. While he is eager to leave the property, there is some ominous force trying to prevent that from happening.
Right from its opening moments, You Should Have Left sets the perfect creepy mood and tone, utilizing the viewer’s knowledge of horror movie tropes against them for presumed scares. The prologue offers a few jump scares as the viewer is shockingly introduced to the characters and their relationships. The tension and mystery once again builds as Theo and the family move into their rental home—what is this odd, creepy place?, why are there so many doors?, what are the locals afraid of?, who or where is the owner of the house? and so on. Strange things start happening in the house, and the fer intensifies as the viewer catches an off reflection, or something lurking in the shadows. There were a few moments that made me jump. However, once the final act arrives, things start to fall apart a bit. The filmmakers go off in an odd direction. The film becomes more of a fast-paced montage of disturbing imagery, rather than an actual story. This is all supposed to lead to a grand surprise reveal, but a well-seasoned horror viewer is probably already several steps ahead and has figured it out. I understood what they were going for in the end, but it just didn’t quite work for me—felt a bit clunky with some hand-waiving involved. It was a shame because the rest of the film was really quite well done.
You Should Have Left has a very small cast, with only about 7 characters, but it never felt lacking in that regard. The majority of the screen time falls with Kevin Bacon, who delivers a strong performance as this man dealing with a dark past that is haunting him. Writer/director David Koepp had previously worked with Bacon on Stir of Echoes, and this re-teaming of the pair was, for the most part, successful. Amanda Seyfried was also quite good in her role, but her character felt a bit underutilized. The relationship between Theo and Susanna never really felt that genuine. You just never got the sense of why these two ever would have fallen in love with one another, especially given the nearly 30-year age gap—though I did appreciate the scene where Theo arrives at Susanna’s film set, and the security guard assumes he’s her father. On the other hand, Avery Essex, who played their daughter, had great chemistry with both of her on-screen parents.
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment has released You Should Have Left on both Digital and DVD (which does not include a digital copy). That means that those who want to watch the film in HD will need to go with the Digital version. The picture quality is quite good. The Welsh countryside looks beautiful with its green grass and fall colored leaves in the trees. The presentation also nicely captures the stark, sometimes creepy, wood tones of the rental home. There were a few darker scenes in the final act where the blacks look a little muddled with green and orange, but this may have been a stylistic choice. The audio track provides clear dialogue, provides a nicely immersive experience. The surround and stereo sound is especially effective in the final act where the audio puts the viewer on edge, causing a sense of confusion as sounds come from various angles. Unfortunately, neither the Digital nor the DVD release includes any supplemental material, besides the film’s trailer.
Audio/Video specs may vary by digital provider.
- 1080p / Widescreen 1.85:1
- Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1
- Subtitles: English SDH
- Movies Anywhere compatible
- No bonus material included
You Should Have Left starts off as a very promising thriller, setting the perfect tone and mood. The filmmakers do an excellent job of building the mystery and tension over the course of the film, and provide some genuine scares. However, the film goes off in a disappointing direction in its final act. Universal’s digital release looks and sounds great, but doesn’t include any bonus material despite the somewhat premium price. I would recommend a rental over a blind buy, or wait until it goes on sale.