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You Should Have Left
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by Lybarger

"Stirfry of Echoes"
3 stars

Unlike a lot of other writes who have stepped into the director’s chair, David Koepp has demonstrated he consistently belongs there.

His debut film The Trigger Effect demonstrated that he has a great sense of pacing, and Premium Rush is proof that he can stage action scenes worthy of William Friedkin. With his latest offering, however, manages a formidably constructed haunted house that does seem tinged with the supernatural but is fitfully occupied.

You Should Have Left, which Koepp adapted from Daniel Kehlmann’s novel, has several welcome embellishments on the formula, but for the film to work as more than a technical exercise, it helps if the people being tormented by the supernatural are a little more interesting on their own.

It’s tricky to get behind the film’s protagonist because he seems to be the sort of character who might exist only in Hollywood’s version of Los Angeles. Theo Conroy (Kevin Bacon) has obviously got money because he lives in a palatial house with a pool and is married to actress Susanna (Amanda Seyfried), and he has an astonishingly abundant amount of spare time.

When he’s not brooding while his wife is on the job, Toby sits and listens to tapes of a New Age guru to calm his jagged nerves. Because Susanna has a job coming up in the UK, she thinks taking Theo and their younger daughter Ella (Avery Essex) with her might help him enjoy a life most of us would envy.

You don’t have to be in touch with the supernatural to figure out the source of Theo’s neuroses, and one wonders if the ghosts could do us all a favor and scare him into ending his whining. It’s a given that Bacon is a solid actor, but who wants to see Marlon Brando playing a cartoon character, other than Superman’s dad?

To Koepp’s credit, he acknowledges the age gap frequently and tries to play up the tensions inherent in a match like Theo and Sususanna’s. Nonetheless, as the film progresses, it’s easy to start cheering for the malevolent phantoms.

If the human occupants of the rental home in Wales aren’t as engaging as they should be, the house itself gives Keopp and the audience an intriguing series of jolts. In this film, the spirits occupy a home that’s not a Gothic mansion but a modern, well furnished home that’s creepy because it’s sterile instead of decrepit.

There are no decorations save for books on a shelf, and the lack of personality in the place is as settling as dark shadows in an ancient manor. The upkeep on this place might be more economical than a mansion, but the odd proportions, which keep changing, and the brightly, lit but lifeless décor indicate the place wasn’t such a bargain or was a bargain the Prince of Darkness.

Despite how the stairs and the hallways twist and turn, you’ll see the ending before Theo and his family do. It’s like riding in a limo to a convenience store.

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originally posted: 06/20/20 00:25:43
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