If the name David Koepp doesn’t ring a bell, now would be a good time to familiarize yourself. An acclaimed screenwriter and director, Koepp has worked on such projects as Jurassic Park, Mission Impossible, Stir of Echoes, 2002’s Spider-Man and Secret Window. Recently, during a press roundtable interview for the release of his latest film, YOU SHOULD HAVE LEFT, I had the chance to chat with the writer/director about bringing the visuals of the film to life.
For those not familiar with the premise of YOU SHOULD HAVE LEFT, I’ll turn to the official synopsis: “Theo Conroy (Kevin Bacon) a successful middle-aged man whose marriage to his much younger wife, Susanna (Amanda Seyfried) is shredding at the seams, frayed by her secretiveness, his jealousy and the shadow of his past. In an effort to repair their relationship, Theo and Susanna book a vacation at a stunning, remote modern home in the Welsh countryside for themselves and their six-year-old daughter, Ella (Avery Essex). What at first seems like a perfect retreat distorts into a perfect nightmare when Theo’s grasp on reality begins to unravel and he suspects that a sinister force within the house knowns more than he or Susanna have revealed, even to each other.”
The house in which the Conroy’s stay at is nothing short of stunning. Located on a remote piece of land in the Welsh countryside, the modern-designed home features sharp angles, large picture windows, vast hallways, and a muted palette. The house, which is a character in and of itself, is both breathtaking and chilling in its appearance and hidden secrets. “On crafting the visuals, in particular, I’m drawn to stories, especially in horror, that works both on a literal and metaphysical level.” Koepp goes on to further explain, “The idea that there is this house that has levels that you don’t know about, aspects that you don’t know about, as well as characters that have depths and aspects that you don’t know about, and both are being revealed as the story goes on, was really exciting.”
The trick was using the house visually as a mechanism to throw off both the characters and the viewers as well as a symbolic metaphor for the horrors that were unfolding. “Visually, what that meant was I needed to create a space that we thought we knew, that quickly becomes disorienting,” explains Koepp. “I wanted the whole last 45 minutes of the movie to feel like you just woke up in a strange, dark room in the middle of the night and you’re trying to go to the bathroom and the door’s not where you thought it was. To do that, you have to spend the first 45 minutes thinking you know where everything is.”
To achieve that, Koepp had to set up a realistic vision that was believable for the viewer. “Visually, a lot of the takes in the first half of the movie are longer takes that move from one hallway to another which says: this is here, that’s there, we go through here into the kitchen, so that everybody feels settled and understands where everything is in this house.” Once Koepp created that false sense of comfort for the audience, that’s when it gets flipped on its head. Koepp goes on to say, “Then later, when I start opening doors that no longer lead where we thought they lead, it throws us because it shakes up what we already knew.”
Combining the elements of these visuals along with a twisting narrative and strong performances from the cast, YOU SHOULD HAVE LEFT does a great job of transporting the viewer into a dizzying storyline filled with secrets that demand a reckoning. YOU SHOULD HAVE LEFT is now available to watch On Demand. For more on the film, check out our review here.