IR Film Review: YOU SHOULD HAVE LEFT [Universal]

The tendency of perspective and perception is a idiom in movies that usually paints to a metaphor of whether or not a character is guilty of the actions he or she supposedly committed. in “You Should Have Left”, the essence of the Id is a big texture with the characters, male and female. Like writer/director David Koepp’s earlier “Secret Window” with Johnny Depp, it is about reflective insanity that can both be deconstructive but also freeing with certain characters. Kevin Bacon has been known to subvert genre more than a time or two so it can be tricky what angle the character could actually take which is part of why the film works as much as it does. The aspect of such a big age gap with his character and his wife Susanna (played by Amanda Seyfried) works when you understand the mechanics of the story and why that needs to be. It is a bit of a stretch maybe but they both make it work.

The mechanics of the movie are effective. The story is not about any big reveals but it is also not about making it easy to discover what is going on. The production design and the efficiency of structure is quintessential Blumhouse but also Koepp efficiency and 90s style thriller. Making a genre film and on a low budget ultimately depends on the director. Sometimes it can make certain directors really make it work like “Upgrade” by Leigh Whammel. “You Should Have Left” is an apt film but it is neither exceptional nor bad. It is effectively entertaining and a film that definitely has re-watch value, not because there are new aspects to discover but because the mechanics are smooth. Seyfried gets a bit of a thankless role but there is a almost a proxy irony that filters through the story with her. Avery Essex who plays their young daughter is extremely precocious but also an effective actor beyond her years…and yet sometimes one can see her acting.

The film also uses its location to remove the viewer from their comfort zone. The location that fills in for Wales is undeniably remarkable if the location manager managed to do what is seen seamlessly with very few stock shots if any. On the essence that this is a Blumhouse production, it is not necessarily terrifying or filled with horror as one would think but it is a effective concept that can be made to fill a structural base, like “The Purge” or “Happy Death Day,” That is the brilliance of a piece like this and the Blumhouse model because it forces the filmmaker to make it work at a studio level with the budget of an indie. But, as usual, it is always about the right ingredients.

B-

By Tim Wassberg

IR Film Review: FANTASY ISLAND [Sony]

After the advent of “Lost”, the notion of the mysterious island has been tinkered with but this metaphor, this trope of genre, has been in play for quite a long time. It is about taking the mythology and turning it on his head. “Fantasy Island” was probably original thought of as a straight reboot but audiences today don’t want the essence of a fantasy when the reality strays right below. They like the allure of the fantasy but tend to want to see the comeuppance so they don’t feel so bad about the state of the world or their own life. Jason Blum through his Blumhouse banner has found a way to make his type of horror films for a budget and yet use either his burgeoning IP or other IP and transform it with exceptional effect. He got ahold of “Fantasy Island” through Sony, much like the upcoming “Invisible Man” from Universal and changed the perspective.

Without giving too much, this Fantasy Island is about granting your wishes but also showing its consequence. While this might seem like having your cake and eating it too, the film does work on the level though seemingly in a strange college frat yet strangely compelling sort of way. This is why “Happy Death Day” and especially “Happy Death Day 2U “work so well is because it takes the 80s genre of horror per se, spins it with a little creative story structure (which doesn’t work some of the time but most of the time does) and pushes it back out.

The basic structure here still has Mr. Roarke…this time played by Michael Pena versus the now passed Ricardo Montalban. There is a secret to be kept but his intention is kept barely below the surface. Most of the characters from the kid who lost his father to war to a girl bullied in high school getting her revenge to two brothers from different mothers who just want to have a good time work well within their lane and especially when the lanes tend to mix. This type of film is not trying to be rocket science and, beyond a very basic explantation, doesn’t need to say how. The one anomaly is Maggie Q who is very good at genre stuff. She is good here but because of her recognizability, the tendency of the plot tends to get a little more obvious when she is around which might have not necessarily been the best idea since she deserves an action or horror remake all her own. Overall the film though maintains its pace while getting slightly sloppy at the end because all details can ride together…but “Fantasy Island” knows its audience, still wanting to give them scares but without creeping or goring them out too much.

B-

By Tim Wassberg