You Should Have Left isn't the most unique psychological horror out there, but in 2020 this labyrinth of horror clichés is quite something to behold.
David Koepp is best known for his writing, with almost all of his direction coming in dead last in his long filmography. Luckily one film, a controversial film at that, Secret Window, stands out, and while not exactly like You Should Have Left, similarly there truly is something deeper at hand. Within, Koepp produces an impressive atmosphere for our feature length nightmare to take place. While Koepp does show off his directing skills through his fluent transitions from room to room, his lack of narrative in his visuals is daunting. Director David Koepp aside, Angus Hudson delivers with his cinematography, most notably during a cold night hike - goosebumps were certainly circulating.
On first watch, the story makes a good deal of sense, however there's so much left unclear by the film's close. You Should Have Left is a story of jealousy and anger taking over the mental-being of our lead, Theo (Kevin Bacon) while being forced into a living nightmare. The film is an adaptation of Daniel Kehlman's novella, and because of this, the film may either be lost occasionally on its own or because of the source material; even though it was adapted by the "master" of adaptations himself, David Koepp (Jurassic Park, Spider-Man). The plot here can get convoluted and confusing, leading the audience on an adventure that they certainly aren't anticipating.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
You Should Have Left has a very minimal cast, with a majority of the acting not matching with the terrific maze of sets the director has set. The cast consists primarily of Kevin Bacon, Amanda Seyfried, and Avery Tiiu Essex, and they all do an acceptable job throughout. Bacon and Essex have moments of greatness while also suffering from quick moments of awkward deliveries. Their chemistry is certainly there, and I believed Theo cared for his daughter. However the same can't be said for Bacon and Seyfried, who share only a few conversations and show almost no sign of connection. Circumstances show themselves a little shy of halfway through and you feel almost nothing for Bacon's Theo, yet more toward the confused Ella (Essex). In the end it works in the favor of Bacon and Essex as they share a majority of the runtime beside one another.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
"...labyrinth of horror clichés is quite something to behold..."
You Should Have Left (2020) | VOD
The horror is in the details and in this instance it lies in the visuals. Glance away for even a moment and you may come back confused; the visuals rule the film over its narrative. As chilling and intriguing as the visuals as a whole can be, when some don't operate on the same level as others, certain aspects can become cheesy to the viewer. The polaroids were a scary touch with the sudden flash of the camera, but sadly this element left quite a bit to be desired, starting off strong only to dwindle in the end.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
From start to finish, the sound design is excellent. The man with no name featured at the beginning of the film is horrifying in his representation in the night, showcasing the sound design the audience can look forward to. The sudden breaches of silence work well in the moments they’re needed. The sound design is near perfect, and it's everything you want from a horror film - just enough to get the nerves to spike.
You Should Have Left probably won't win over a majority of horror fans with it's convoluted narrative and shoehorned conclusion that anyone should be able to see coming from a mile away; but that can't stop You Should Have Left from being one of the most chilling experiences of 2020 (so far).