Watching a horror movie might seem a little redundant to some right now, but “You Should Have Left” has a nifty throwback feel — as much “The Twilight Zone” as the broader entries for which its production company, Blumhouse, is known. Kevin Bacon plays the guy seeking to unwind in a very creepy house, adding an extra degree of class to this spare and modest exercise.
The movie’s brainier skew — or at least, somewhat more ambitious posture — owes debts to German author Daniel Kehlmann, on whose book the film is based; and writer-director David Koepp, best known for the screenplays on blockbusters like “Jurassic Park” and “Mission: Impossible.”
Beyond that, there’s a whole lot of Bacon, leading a minimal cast that also features Amanda Seyfried as his much-younger wife and Avery Essex as their six-year-old daughter.
Bacon plays Theo, who is described as “rich and retired,” giving him time to indulge his jealousy regarding Susanna (Seyfried), an actress who can’t seem to put down her phone. After some squabbling they agree to take a break in Wales, staying at a sprawling house that’s essentially in the middle of nowhere, other than a few villagers reminiscent of the stock characters in old black-and-white Frankenstein movies.
Soon, odd things begin to happen, leading to uncomfortable conversations with the kid and revelations about Theo’s past — events that clearly weigh on him, prompting the girl to ask, “Why do people hate daddy so much?”
Yes, there will be answers, as well as long hallways and moments of terror — including, viewers should be warned, peril involving the child. Comparisons to “The Shining” are inevitable, although not essentially accurate.
For starters, it’s a much smaller-boned movie. Koepp also mostly emphasizes the psychological aspects, which start with vivid nightmares even before the trio reaches their zero-stars-on-Tripadvisor destination, and builds the tension gradually enough to avoid the irritation that stems from people in horror movies behaving stupidly.
Blumhouse is frequently associated with such fare as “The Purge” and the recent “Halloween” sequel, and happily, “You Should Have Left” charts a somewhat different course.
Universal Pictures has been aggressive about pushing out movies on demand, and compared to “The King of Staten Island” to “Trolls World Tour,” this particular genre perhaps loses something without an audience.
Still, the project’s claustrophobic scale otherwise feels well-suited to consumption on a home screen. Besides, there’s an unintended kick, in the current moment, watching a movie designed to make you want to flee the confines of a house.
“You Should Have Left” premieres June 18 on demand.