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'You Should Have Left' review: Kevin Bacon stars in entertaining haunted-house tale

(from left) Avery Essex and  Kevin Bacon)

(from left) Avery Essex and  Kevin Bacon) in "You Should Have Left," written and directed by David Koepp. Credit: Universal Pictures/Nick Wall

PLOT A family’s grand vacation home summons up dark secrets from the past.

CAST Kevin Bacon, Amanda Seyfried, Avery Essex

RATED R (bloody and gruesome imagery)

LENGTH 1:33

WHERE On demand

BOTTOM LINE David Koepp’s haunted-house story entertains despite getting lost in its own corridors.

David Koepp’s “You Should Have Left,” about a man and his family whose vacation home won’t let them go, arrives with excellent timing. In the middle of a pandemic that has essentially put the country in quarantine, what could be more relatable than a movie about being trapped in a house? As its star, Kevin Bacon, runs up and down hallways that only lead back to his starting point, “You Should Have Left” can sometimes feel less like a horror-chiller and more like reality TV.

Bacon plays Theo Conway, once a wealthy banker, now retired and married to Susanna (Amanda Seyfried), an actress nearly half his age. They have a lovely little daughter, Ella (a very good Avery Essex), and a posh house in what looks like Hollywood. The only fly in this ointment: Theo made headlines years ago when he was accused of drowning his wife in their bathtub. He was tried and acquitted but, Von Bulow-style, still lives under a cloud of suspicion. Theo also has an anger problem that he tries to control with a daily journal.

When Susanna books a vacation home, we meet the film’s real star: A modernist mansion on a hilltop in Wales. An austere brick construction with sharp angles and looming windows (perfect for framing spooky silhouettes at night), it’s played partly by Life House, near the Welsh town of Llanbister, and partly by several others in what adds up to a bravura performance. Almost immediately, this imposing structure begins acting strangely: New doors appear, corridors expand impossibly, and Theo gets lost both physically and mentally.

Directed and written by Koepp, working from a novel by Daniel Kehlmann, “You Should Have Left” bears a strong resemblance to “The Shining,” right down to the appearance of a rotting bathtub-lady. We stick with it because it presents a tantalizing puzzle — how and why does this house bend space, and even time? — but we never get a satisfying answer. It’s odd that Koepp, one of the savviest screenwriters alive (“Jurassic Park,” “Panic Room,” “Spider-Man”), didn’t find a way to surprise us. The movie ends pretty much as we predicted at the start.

That said, “You Should Have Left” boasts a better-than-average cast and provides a few shivery moments. If you’re sick of rattling around your own house, at least this one will be a change of pace.

YOU SHOULD HAVE LEFT (2 ½ STARS)

PLOT A family’s grand vacation home summons up dark secrets from the past.

CAST Kevin Bacon, Amanda Seyfried, Avery Essex

RATED R (bloody and gruesome imagery)

LENGTH 1:33

WHERE On demand

BOTTOM LINE David Koepp’s haunted-house story entertains despite getting lost in its own corridors.

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