Kevin Bacon must protect his family from a possessive house in 'You Should Have Left'

  • Theo Conroy (Kevin Bacon) must protect his daughter Ella (Avery Essex) in the thriller "You Should Have Left," written and directed by David Koepp.

    Theo Conroy (Kevin Bacon) must protect his daughter Ella (Avery Essex) in the thriller "You Should Have Left," written and directed by David Koepp. Courtesy of Universal Pictures

  • A series of strange events at a vacation home in the Welsh countryside push Theo Conroy (Kevin Bacon) to the brink of a breakdown in the film "You Should Have Left."

    A series of strange events at a vacation home in the Welsh countryside push Theo Conroy (Kevin Bacon) to the brink of a breakdown in the film "You Should Have Left." Courtesy of Universal Pictures

 
 
Posted6/18/2020 6:00 AM

Help!

We've been trapped in a live-action Escher print while bumming out on an acid trip!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

That comes close to describing the dizziest, disorienting depths of David Koepp's sinister, possessive house thriller "You Should Have Left."

Doors to the kitchen and other rooms inexplicably open to ghastly corridors.

Bending staircases twist and turn in nightmarish shadows.

Mirror images do not obey the laws of reflected light.

And how can a house be five feet bigger inside than it measures outside? (What is this, a Welsh Tardis?)

In "You Should Have Left," Koepp re-teams with Kevin Bacon, star of his quietly eerie Chicago-set 1999 supernatural tale "Stir of Echoes."

Bacon (also credited as a producer here) plays Theo Conroy, a middle-aged man who feels insecure and jealous about being so much older than his young movie actress wife, Susanna (Amanda Seyfried).

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"I'm not that old," he keeps saying to their adorable 6-year-old daughter, Ella (Avery Essex), who worries about his death. But who is Theo really reassuring, her or himself?

Theo dislikes his wife pretending to have sex in movies with other men. And he can't shake the suspicion she might be seeing someone much younger and more virile than he.

In Daniel Kehlmann's bestselling novel of the same title, his nameless main character was a screenwriter struggling to bang out a sequel to his one hit film, "Besties."

Here in Koepp's own adaptation, we have no idea what Theo does for a living, or what stresses have forced him to constantly listen to self-improvement podcasts.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

We slowly discover that Theo had a first wife who died under a metaphorical cloud of suspicion. He senses when people recognize him and judge him with accusing stares.

To strengthen their crumbling matrimonial bond, Theo and Susanna book a vacation at an architecturally intriguing, well-lighted, incredibly spacious modern house nestled in the Welsh countryside.

The first clue that something is amiss occurs when Ella amuses herself making shadow puppets on her bedroom wall, and a dark human silhouette appears -- with no one else in the room.

A series of increasingly strange, hallucinogenic events push Theo to the brink of a breakdown as the house, with its seeming ability to bend space and time, erodes his sense of reality.

For all its dreamlike inventiveness, "You Should Have Left" comes off as a vaguely unsatisfying psychological mystery with minor hints of "The Shining," "The Haunting," and even a 2007 Spanish thriller called "TimeCrimes."

Despite exquisitely rendered scenarios from Angus Hudson's shadowy camera work, "You Should Have Left" produces more manipulative atmosphere than genuine frights, especially when its characters are confronted by mildly threatening situations instead of palpable, life-threatening dangers.

Bacon, at 61, continues to be a master at projecting conflict roiling beneath a placid facade.

He and the imaginative production design of the house (by Sophie Becher and Megan Elizabeth Bell) carry this thriller to its soft-impact end, one with fewer than six degrees of separation from an M. Night Shyamalan twist.

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