David Koepp has returned to the director's chair for You Should Have Left, a horror film staring Kevin Bacon and Amanda Seyfried. It is a haunted house story that focuses on Theo (Bacon), a retired banker, and his actress wife Susanna (Seyfried) as they take holiday in a small Welsh town with their young daughter, Ella (Avery Essex).

Heading into this family getaway is the notion that Theo isn't your typical retiree. He's experienced something in his past that's resulted in him being recognized by strangers. For good and bad, his past follows him wherever he goes and it's affected his psyche. Theo, in an effort to help cope, listens to self-help/motivational recordings and writes in a journal. But all of that will pale in comparison to the “therapy” awaiting him in the vacation home he rented out.

The simple way to describe Left is that it's a haunted house story. The more complicated description is that Koepp's latest is a tale of a man whose misplaced regret and pain manifests itself as a series of eerie and seemingly paranormal activity. The same day Theo and his family arrive at the isolated, modern manor, Theo discovers hidden hallways, lights that won't turn off, creepy Polaroids, doors which appear out of nowhere and unexplained entries in his journal. Theo shrugs off those red flags to focus on his growing tension and suspicion with Susanna. The level of distrust reaches a breaking point when Theo kicks Susanna out. When she leaves with the only car the family came in, Theo and Ella are left to deal with the house, whose negative energy seems to feed off the couple's marital spat.

Left is an adaptation of the Daniel Kehlmann novel of the same name and Koepp also served as the film's sole writer. Considering Koepp has written such scripts as 1993's Jurassic Park and Carlito's Way, along with 1996's Mission: Impossible and 2002's Spider-Man, you would think this project was in good hands. But Koepp isn't as successful as a director - the last three projects he directed are 2015's Mortdecai, 2012's Premium Rush and 2008's Ghost Town, all of which were met with lukewarm to cold critical responses.

Regardless of his filmography, Koepp offers nothing new to the haunted house subgenre. The scares are rare (most of of which are jump scares) and the gore is standard and minimal. There is some tension, but Koepp relies too heavily on Geoff Zanelli's score to manufacture it.

The interesting aspect of Left is the idea that negativity can fuel and dictate the horrors which appear (not unlike Ghostbusters II's premise). That itself is a bit of a spoiler but I've obviously withheld exactly why Theo is nearly as famous as his celebrity wife. But Koepp blows a chance at providing profound emotion and depth. As a result, events his characters find scary will produce yawns and shoulder shrugs from audiences (and eye rolls from horror film fans).

As a horror, Left fails at nearly every level. As a family drama, it's messy and undeveloped since Koepp does a poor job of delving deep into Theo's personal demons to provide greater impact with the acrimony between Theo and Susanna. Not to mention, Seyfried isn't convincing playing an actress (which is terrible). Part of that is because Koepp wrote Susanna with little depth and he doesn't paint Susanna in the best light - she's a supporting character who's there merely to push along Theo's storyline. Seyfried is capable of better performances but she isn't good enough to elevate a poorly written character.

Through all of this, I have to mention that the age discrepancy is total garbage. Kevin Bacon is 61 years old while Seyfried is 34. Bacon is old enough to be Seyfried's father, which is an issue for a couple of reasons. I understand love can come in many different forms and age can be irrelevant, but this completely disrespects older actresses who would be more age appropriate. Then, it negatively supports the idea that Seyfried was cast merely for her looks.

Made on a budget of a rumored $4 million, Left is small film with smaller expectations. But since Jason Blum and his Blumhouse Productions backed this, there are some expectations, considering the Blumhouse produced such memorable horror titles as The Gift, Get Out, Happy Death Day, Upgrade, 2018's Halloween and the recent The Invisible Man.

You Should Have Left is a waste of time for general and horror film fans alike. It should have remained a book, or maybe should have gone the television route in order to provide more depth and character development (but The Haunting of Hill House is already out there, so maybe not). Regardless, you, the viewer, should not have to see this forgettable feature.

1.5 stars out of 5


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