[Review] YOU SHOULD HAVE LEFT (2020)

While Kevin Bacon has been involved in some of the most iconic films of my generation – his horror projects have always held a special place in my heart – and he seems to have an attraction to the genre as he has returned to it time and time again through the course of his career.

You Should Have Left marks yet another return and just goes to prove that you can take the actor out of the genre but – the genre will always remain in the actor. Kevin Bacon is just a superb actor all the way around but he seems most at home with our little dark corner of the world.

As strong as a talent as he is though – You Should Have Left ends up being owned by a little girl. She plays Kevin Bacon’s daughter in the film and her name is Avery Tiiu Essex. We’ll talk much more about her in just a bit – first though, let’s discuss the storyline.

Bacon portrays Theo – a rich banker with a troubled past – the depths of which are revealed as the film progresses. His wife – a much younger actress Susanna – played by Amanda Seyfried and the aforementioned young Miss Essex who plays their daughter, Ella. Really not too many other characters involved in this one – and the ones that are will take their turn in the spotlight as we progress along but – for the most part – are little family unit is the center point of the story – and the horror.

We find out very early on that Theo has some serious jealousy and trust issues – and he is dealing with some past mistakes from which moving on from has proven difficult. The little family unit is not yet struggling – but, the writing is on the wall and in an attempt to right the relationship the decision is made for the whole family to travel with Susanna to the UK where she is about to film a new project. A house is rented and off they go.

Prior to the trip to Wales – the film opens with a fairly frightening nightmare scene that while ripe with terror and atmosphere – ends up relying on the jump scare to get the job done – a bit of a disappointment but it is done with panache and style so – I still give it a thumbs up.

Once we get to the rental house in Wales – things really start getting freaky – our first hint that something is up is when Theo heads down to turn off the lights for the evening and he discovers that the house is a labyrinth of hallways and doorways – and while he thinks he is only gone for a few minutes – it is revealed to us that he has actually been gone about 5 hours. Yeah – something isn’t right at the beautiful house in Wales.

From that point on – through a series of events – the family relationship, Theo’s mental state, and the true nature and purpose of the house are truly revealed. One of the best scenes is when Suzanne ends up fielding a tough flurry of questions from Ella – about her father’s past – which serves as a major catalyst for the final third of the film.

Before the heavy-duty supernatural stuff kicks in – Theo finds out his worst fear is true – uncovering a nasty little secret that his wife is hiding – and he sends her into town for the night, leaving himself and Ella at the rental alone – it is then that the house comes alive and we spend the last third of the film running, searching, screaming and discovering all the secrets this nasty little flat hides.

It is also at this point that the talent of Avery Essex really shines. Her wide-eyed innocence and true need to understand what is happening to her father – and to her family elevates the drama factor ten fold – at least it did for me.

Seeing and experiencing the haunting truth of dealing with guilt and loss through the eyes of a child watching her father and family unravel – well, it’s heartbreaking – and it’s performed courageously by the very talented Ms. Essex.

Most of the horror in this one comes from the revelations that Theo slowly unpacks as the house weaves its evil spell over him – and while there is no actual gore to speak of – the scares that do occur are well planned and for the most part effective – and director David Koepp’s ability to play with time and space also works to the film’s advantage.

Koepp of course worked with Bacon on Stir of Echo’s – and the two of them play well together – Koepp also wrote the screenplay – and it seems obvious that he wrote Theo for Bacon as the role fits him to a tee.

While the film doesn’t really bring much new to the table – it is a well-acted, well-directed project that when all is said and done doesn’t embarrass itself and does play to the strengths of its stars. I don’t want to ruin the ending so were going to leave my final thoughts open-ended a bit – as there is no real way to discuss the ending without revealing it so – let’s just leave it at – it has a very Shining-esque finale.

I do recommend giving You Should Have Left a spin – just don’t go into it expecting a high octane, blood-splattered romp – this one is a slow burn that does at least manage to produce some flame – maybe just not enough to please the hardcore horror crowd.

Dave Dreher
Co-Founder / Lead News Reporter at Gruesome Magazine
Dave is co-founder and lead news reporter for Gruesome. Dave has built his resume working for Diabolique Magazine, The Horror Channel, Horrornews.net, House of Horrors and Creature Corner. He has worked with Tom Savini on his official site since 1997 and is also co-host of the popular podcast Horror News Radio.