- You Should Have Left
- Directed by David Koepp
- Written by David Koepp, based on the novel by Daniel Kehlmann
- Classification R; 93 minutes
How do you come back from the brink of cinematic disaster? For David Koepp, who got roundly trounced for his Terry-Thomas-y farce Mortdecai five years ago and hasn’t helmed a movie since, the answer is: go small, and go in a wildly different direction.
The filmmaker’s follow-up, You Should Have Left, is an economical little horror movie that is as far away from the Johnny Depp mugging and zig-zaggy nonsense of Mortdecai as one can get. But it also arrives with a plot and scare tactics so familiar and uninspired that it leaves you pining for some unexpected energy – nothing like the annoying poke-poke-nudge-nudge humour of Mortdecai, but I’d happily settle for the Looney Tunes speed of Koepp’s Premium Rush, or the thrilling wonder of his screenplays for Spider-Man and Jurassic Park. (The man has range, give him that.)
Set almost exclusively inside a spooky Welsh mansion rented by a rich banker with a troubled past (Kevin Bacon) and his younger-by-decades actress wife (Amanda Seyfried), Koepp’s adaptation of Daniel Kehlmann’s early-aughts novella is composed of many tiny pieces of other, better genre efforts: a dash of Robert Zemeckis’s What Lies Beneath, a helping of Mark Z. Danielewski’s cult novel House of Leaves, more than a bit of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining and even a healthy dose of Koepp’s own 1999 Kevin Bacon vehicle, Stir of Echoes.
If you are the kind of viewer who loses their mind over, say, mirror images that don’t correspond to reality or hidden passageways that appear out of nowhere, then there are some decent nighttime frights to be savoured here. But for anyone familiar with how these haunted-house movies go, there are too few surprises and too muted a payoff. You Should Have Left will, however, make you seriously rethink your next Airbnb rental. And maybe even push you to watch Mortdecai, just to see what a real horror looks like.
You Should Have Left is available digitally on-demand starting June 19.
Plan your screen time with the weekly What to Watch newsletter. Sign up today.