After the film came out on DVD and Blu-ray October 12th, I've finally managed to find the time to watch David Koepp's latest mind-bending psychological horror/thriller. And much to my delight it did not disappoint. Just as a head's up, this review does contain SPOILERS so read on at your own peril.
"In this psychological thriller from Blumhouse Productions and legendary screenwriter Koepp, Kevin Bacon and Amanda Seyfried star as a couple seeking a restful vacation in a remote home in the Welsh countryside. What at first seems like a perfect retreat distorts into a terrifying nightmare when reality begins to unravel, dark episodes from the past resurface, and a sinister force in the house refuses to let them leave."
The film begins with an explosive opening, that thrusts the viewer straight into one of the main plot points of the film. Unfortunately, it ends rather suddenly and you're sat there kind of wondering what that dream meant. As the film slowly plays out and unravels piece by piece the opening will make sense. The introduction to both the story and the characters is well done I thought. I'll admit I was intrigued immediately, Koepp did a great job of drawing the audience in early. He plays on this further with the next scene as Kevin Bacon is denied access to a closed set where his wife, Amanda Seyfried, films a sex scene for her latest film. Both awkward and pretty amusing to be fair, but again Bacon claims "he recognised me" whilst speaking to her after. It's obvious there's something more here, and it's messed with Bacon's head quite a lot from the looks of it. What's he trying to run from or forget?
After the opening, I will admit the film doesn't move quickly. This film is more of a slow burn that comes together piece by piece. If you're looking for something that moves at a faster pace like Koepp's Stir of Echoes did, I don't think you'll enjoy this as much.
So we move onto them travelling to the secluded house in Wales. This, for me, was great to see. There's some beautiful yet haunting long and wide shots throughout this scene to not only show off the beautiful Welsh landscape, but to demonstrate to us how truly alone these characters are. They are literally in the middle of nowhere, and yes there is plenty of places in Wales like this. It's fantastic...well not in this situation but you know what I mean!
They arrive at the house and everything looks incredible! The scenery is great and the place is huge. For me though, as light hearted as this scene was I can't help but get a bad feeling. I think this is more so due to the subtle yet haunting score that keeps popping up. This for me is where things start to unravel as we find out as there's something seriously weird going on here as Bacon's character loses a good few hours wondering round the house for what is actually minutes on screen.
The next scene the story begins to pick up pace as we find out why so many people recognise Theo (Kevin Bacon). After Susanna (Amanda Seyfried) takes their daughter Ella (Avery Tiiu Essex) out for a walk in areas surrounding the house, she asks why people hate her father so much. As Susanna explains he was married before marrying her, turns out his wife drowned in the bathtub after taking medication and falling asleep. Due to Theo's career as a successful high-profile banker, he was investigated for the murder of his wife before being acquitted of it. Throughout this scene we see further developments of Bacon's character Theo as it cuts back to him writing in a journal trying to heal and battle his inner demons...and it really looks like he's fighting a losing battle.
The first look at the outside world around the house is an odd, yet humorous one to say the least as Theo heads into the local village to pick up a few things. I don't want to give too much away here but I got a "Slaughtered Lamb' vibe from this scene, like the village shop owner knows more than he's letting on. Not to mention the woman out by Theo's car, it's just all a bit weird and pretty haunting to be honest.
The story really begins to pick up pace here, as I said previously things start to unravel piece by piece and the psychological aspect really kicks in. The cracks in Theo and Susanna's relationship start to show. Theo's distrust and jealousy is apparent when he sneakily checks Susanna's phone and laptop as she's in the bath, there's a lot of issues in this relationship already. Part of me began to think maybe he did kill his previous wife if he found she cheated on him. After finding nothing on her phone and laptop it appears as if he's ready to forget everything, try to move forward and really mend this relationship. Now this is when shit hits the fan. Who wrote that in Theo's journal? Where did that door come from? Is this real or is Theo dreaming?
Things take a turn for the worse at this point and the film quickens as things get stranger and stranger. I found myself often asking questions like is this real? Is Theo dreaming? Is he hallucinating? Is he slowly descending into madness as he begins losing the battle with his past and inner demons? Is the house punishing him? To be honest, I think this was what Koepp was going for. I don't really want to say anymore, as I feel you just need to sit down and watch it for it to be fully experienced and appreciated.
All in all it was a fantastic film. I thought the storyline was well written, even if it does start off a bit slow. Beautifully shot with some truly haunting and chilling imagery throughout, and with the editing some moments really mess with your head. The cast were great but Bacon stole the show. I liked the chemistry between Seyfried and Bacon, very human and relatable. Avery Tiiu Essex I think has got a long career ahead of her, I thought she was great. I haven't read the 2017 novel from Daniel Kehlmann, of the same name, that was the basis for this film. Although the themes and core remain the same, it appears there are a lot of changes.
The message, although not as painfully clear as it is with some horror films, is pretty evident. If Theo had left his previous wife and just continued on with his life he would've been able to heal, met Susanna and lived a normal and happy life...but he didn't. I feel this is why Susanna managed to leave the house with her daughter Ella so easily, whereas Theo was trapped there. He was unable to escape, with the others that the house had claimed, due to his past mistakes. He had to pay for what he had done. Theo staying back at the house and telling Susanna to leave with Ella was his act of redemption so to speak. As for the house itself, I found it somewhat similar to The Overlook Hotel and Hill House. It is its own entity that manifests itself accordingly, in this case as the owner Stetler. The house does appear as if it chooses who it wishes to claim, and with Theo remaining there at the end of the film it appears he now joins the others trapped there to become another part of the house.
Although this isn't as good as Stir of Echoes, I throughly enjoyed this film. It really messed with my head. I would recommend making time to watch this one...and of course what better time to watch it than Halloween Season!
You Should Have Left is now available on Digital, DVD & Blu-ray. Full details HERE.
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