Maintaining a healthy marriage at any age requires a lot of work. But relationships dragging along a baggage car full of personal issues will demand a lot of extra care.
Theo Conroy and his young actress wife, Susanna, however, aren’t always up to that heavy lifting.
Don’t get me wrong, the two care about one another. They have a young daughter that they both adore. They spend loving family time together. And Theo really wants to do whatever it takes to make this family work. But there are still lots of … things to work through.
The wealthy retired banker, Theo, is insanely jealous, for one thing. And when he goes to a film set and watches his wife film an explicit R-rated sex scene, those green-eyed tendencies tend to flair. That’s not even mentioning the other anger issues he’s still working through. And there’s his nasty past reputation—involving the suspicious death of his first wife—that he can’t quite escape.
For Susanna’s part, well, let’s just say she’s young, gorgeous, appreciates the fawning attention of other men and … keeps certain secrets. There’s something going on that hubby Theo can’t quite prove and that she won’t step up and push aside.
In spite of all that’s lacking in their relationship, the one thing that Theo and Susanna do have plenty of is money. So, they decide to get away for a while and head off to a modern countryside estate in the lush, secluded hills of Wales.
Even that trip, though, has its issues. Theo can’t keep himself from secretly checking Susanna’s every call and message. Then there are incredibly creepy nightmares that all three family members keep having. Even the house they’re staying in, with its odd stretches of hidden-away hallways and staircases, feels disturbing and somehow threatening.
Looks like this getaway attempt may be yet another stumble for the struggling married couple. But … Theo can’t help but get a niggling feeling that this misstep may somehow have bigger consequences. And when he starts sleepwalking his way at night into creepy, torture-chamber-like parts of the house, he becomes convinced of it.
Early on, Ella asks her dad about death and dying since he, at 60, is so much older than her mom. Theo stumbles through an explanation that “life is not survivable,” but Susanna encourages him to tell their girl that they’ll all be together in heaven again someday. Theo attempts to say that, but he also admits he doesn’t believe it. After an argument later on, Susanna says that going to Catholic school really messed him up.
The rest of the film revolves around a nebulous demonic presence that becomes part of the Conroy family members’ lives. A devilish character continually threatens Ella through shadows and dreams. And it talks to her about her use of foul language. “Don’t curse unless you want to be cursed,” it tells her. “It’s a sin, ya’ know.” Theo is haunted by violent, demonically focused dreams, as well. He witnesses a rotted corpse reanimate and attack.
In Wales, a local shopkeeper talks about the house that the Conroys are renting, comparing its owner to a legendary devil and comparing the house to a tower where the devil collects souls. Indeed, the house does take on traits of a spiritually living entity that alters its structure at will and causes time shifting loops that impact its residents. We see Polaroid snapshots and portraits of people who have been trapped in the house before. When Theo confronts the house’s hobbled, growling owner, the man declares, “I’ve got a lot of names, a lot of faces and a lot of houses.”
Theo goes to a movie set and watches Susanna during two takes of a moaning sex scene (the visuals of that scene are kept outside our view). Afterwards, Susanna laments him having to witness that “porny” scene and invites him to have sex with her in their car. We see the end of that interlude, with Susanna straddling and kissing her husband, revealing a bare shoulder and cleavage.
We also see Susanna in other states of undress from t-shirt-and-shorts nightwear to a one-piece swimsuit to stripping down for a bath. (In that last instance, we see her bare legs, back and shoulders, but most of her body is covered by cloudy bathwater.) Theo goes to bed bare-chested.
[Spoiler Warning] Susanna later admits that she is indeed having a sexual affair with a coworker. We also see a naked-but-ghoulish version of Theo’s dead former wife in and out of a tub full of water. But again, frontal nudity is strategically obscured.
There are some lightly violent moments in the story mix, such as when young Ella falls from a tall branch on a tree. She also stumbles down a dark, threatening hallway. Ella and her dad are forced outside and nearly suffer hyperthermia from the cold. But there is no injury in any of those cases.
More extreme moments, however, include a ghoulish character jumping on someone’s chest, strangling him and banging his head to the floor. A devilish dream character lifts young Ella up by the neck. We see someone drowned. A man bloodily rips his forearm open with a broken bottle shard and then jabs the ragged glass into his neck. And a man/devil creature is battered and beaten with a metal cane, tearing his face, spouting blood and knocking out teeth that it spits to the floor.
The first crude and profane words in the film come out of the mouth of a 9-year-old girl. The film as a whole includes some 10 f-words and three s-words. We also hear a handful of other crudities, including uses of “h—,” “d–n” and “a–.” God’s and Jesus’ names are both abused a total of 10 times (with God’s name being combined with “d–n” in four instances).
Theo and Susanna both drink wine with several meals. Theo takes some kind of tablets out of his medicine cabinet after he has nightmares.
[Spoiler Warning] It’s revealed that Theo’s first wife drowned in a bathtub after an overdose of pills and that Theo himself had a hand in it.
Both Theo and Susanna lie to each other.
In the old days, when theaters were open and the studios weren’t pushing all their movie releases back by five months or more, there were films considered weak enough that they didn’t earn a theater release. Those pics generally went directly to video in hopes that you might pick them up because you recognize the stars or are interested in the genre. You Should Have Left is one of those.
This demonically infused horror flick is getting lots of attention now because, well, there’s not much else to talk about. But it really doesn’t deserve any. The acting by Kevin Bacon and Amanda Seyfried is OK. But the story is weak, and the script is abysmal. The opening line, delivered by a little girl, is supposed to, I guess, be something of a foul-mouthed surprise. But it’s just crude. And the script and language go south from there.
There is a slight element of interest here in the form of a house that grows doors, hallways and rooms that weren’t there before. But writer/director David Koepp does nothing interesting with them, and instead he carves out a one-dimensional horror pic with no redeeming values.
I won’t be so cheeky as to say You Should Have Left is a title and a review all in one. But for this horror film’s potential viewers, I will simply say You Should … Reconsider.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.