‘You Should Have Left’ has all the potential in the world to be a welcome comeback for some underappreciated talent.
In the years since a tiny found footage movie called Paranormal Activity found its way into cinemas, Blumhouse Productions has developed a reputation for making high-quality horror and thriller films. Between Insidious, The Purge and Sinister, their serial horror entries have gained plenty of traction. Blumhouse standalones are noteworthy too: the production house has fostered Mike Flanagan’s career, given M. Night Shyamalan a couple of comeback hits in the last couple of years, and produced Jordan Peele’s Oscar-winning Get Out. All in all, Blumhouse has spearheaded surprising and original films that have vitalized the climate of horror.
Of course, the genre itself can be ludicrously hit or miss — scares are subjective — and Blumhouse has released duds in the past. This isn’t much of a surprise given the number of movies the studio actually puts out per year. Starting in 2014, between 11 and 13 Blumhouse films premiere steadily each year, although this number also includes several non-horror efforts. Still, their branding remains solid. The Blumhouse name is everywhere all the time, and when they knock films out of the park, people tend to take notice.
The word from The Hollywood Reporter is that another Blumhouse thriller has found a fantastic cast. These aren’t new names by far, but we definitely haven’t heard from them in a while. According to THR, Amanda Seyfried has joined You Should Have Left, a supernatural thriller that will be helmed and written by prolific screenwriter David Koepp. Kevin Bacon is already attached to the project, having brought the film’s source material — the eponymous book by Daniel Kehlmann — to Koepp.
You Should Have Left will center on a wealthy older man, his young wife, and their six-year-old child. Out in a remote location “that may or may not be obeying all the physical laws of the universe,” their relationship apparently starts to get bizarre and saturated in mistrust.
Right off the bat, it’s easy to be concerned by yet another instance of the “older man dates or is married to suspiciously young wife” trope. While large age gaps in stories aren’t an issue in principle, the media perpetuates this particular dynamic way too many times. However, the film’s logline is, in actuality, rather vague. My intrigue outweighs the unease for now, especially as the film could also have something pertinent to say about any tropes it could play into. This is especially important for Seyfried’s character. She obviously shouldn’t just be the Mother or the Wife, because such a limiting role does nothing for her capabilities. Seyfried can successfully lead unsettling movies and add something more to the archetypes she plays. Her deceptive charm happens to be one of the reasons why Karyn Kusama’s Jennifer’s Body works phenomenally; Seyfried has a sense of openness that could be mistaken for weakness, making her Final Girl moment unexpected and refreshing. Chloe — a psychological thriller — showcases Seyfried’s ability to be a complicated lead character that subverts expectations of beauty and youth.
Without realizing it, many of us would have watched a movie that Koepp had a hand in writing; Jurassic Park, Mission: Impossible and Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man all bear his mark. Of the thrillers he’s written, Panic Room is a hair-raising event despite its relatively confined setting. Koepp has demonstrated his directorial mettle over the span of his career too, helming effectively fun and thrilling spectacles like Premium Rush — a film that builds on tension and suspense through the use of character perspective. In the resurgence of Stephen King adaptations over the past couple of years, it’s worth revisiting Koepp’s performance-driven take on “Secret Window, Secret Garden” as well, which follows a protagonist accused of plagiarism who is subsequently haunted. The performance-driven film, simply titled Secret Garden, is basic in plot, but utterly stylish and unnerving nonetheless.
Koepp’s previous collaboration with Bacon in the horror film Stir of Echoes brings us full circle to the sheer potential of You Should Have Left. Not only do these films share thematic similarities — the human interacting with the unknowable supernatural — but Stir of Echoes also exhibits a wonderfully internal performance from Bacon himself. 1999 was a big year for “I see dead people” movies, and not just because The Sixth Sense came out; Stir of Echoes also met with competition from The Blair Witch Project and The Mummy. As a result, the Bacon/Koepp collaboration flew under the radar a little more. But Bacon is exceptionally charismatic and genuine as an everyman who is literally plagued by the past lives he is forced to witness. Clearly, Koepp understood that a film like Stir of Echoes needed a grounding element, and Bacon portrayed that emotional tether perfectly. He hasn’t graced the big screen since 2016, but what better way to make a comeback than to work with the director who elicited one of the best performances of his career?
Everyone involved in You Should Have Left has proven themselves indispensable to the horror genre over the years. It would be the biggest shame if the film got lost in the shuffle of the rest of the films on Blumhouse’s gigantic, ever-growing slate. Considering the talent involved, we have every reason to have faith in this project.