The horror genre has always been good to Kevin Bacon, starting with his breakout role–and shockingly memorable death scene–in 1980’s classic Friday the 13th. That appearance made him a permanent part of one of horror’s most legendary franchises while roles in other films like Tremors (which launched a genre brand of its own), Flatliners, Hollow Man and even genre-adjacent offerings such as TV’s The Following have made him a steady presence in the field.
One of his best genre outings was 1999’s Stir of Echoes, an old-fashioned ghost story set in a haunted Chicago home that Bacon made with writer-director David Koepp, based on a novel by the famed horror and sci-fi author, Richard Matheson. While Koepp has directed other films and written screenplays for some of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters (including Jurassic Park, Mission: Impossible, the first Spider-Man and War of the Worlds), the smaller, more intimate Stir of Echoes remains a cult hit on its own.
That’s why it’s intriguing to see Bacon and Koepp reunite for You Should Have Left, a present-day haunted house story based on a novella by German writer Daniel Kehlmann. The movie transfers the setting from Germany to Wales, and changes the backgrounds of the characters, but retains the central premise: a married couple with some issues (Bacon and Amanda Seyfried), as well as a young daughter, retreat to a modern house in a remote rural setting for some vacation time and find out that the house is not what it seems–to the point where time and space appear to bend around them.
Den of Geek spoke with Bacon via Zoom about reuniting with Koepp, coming up with a story on their own that eerily fit with Kehlmann’s book, and finding the perfect house in which he and Koepp could get scary again in this Blumhouse Films production.
Den of Geek: Is it a little bit like déjà vu all over again to be doing a haunted house movie with David Koepp 20 years later?
Kevin Bacon: As soon as somebody said wrap on Stir of Echoes, I started to try to get David Koepp to work with me again and to do another scary movie. Sometimes things come quickly and sometimes they take a long time, and I think I finally just wore him down. We stayed friends, which was great and doesn’t always happen, as you know, in Hollywood. What was interesting is that it was a really long time coming, but once his wheels started turning and he started to think about these ideas that we were discussing, it was shockingly fast to get the movie made. Having done this a number of times and produced things that often don’t ever see the light of day, this one was really fast.
He did an outline, which was fantastic. Then I read the book which, serendipitously, had come out and it was so similar to what we were already working on. It was this weird thing where we had this outline, and then I happened to read this other book and I went, “Oh, no, these are so close. This is going to look like we got this idea from the book.” So we just kind of folded the book into the production and took the script on spec to Jason Blum, and Jason said, “Don’t make this movie with anybody else.” And in a very, very short amount of time, David and I were in Wales shooting the movie.
Jason Blum said to me earlier that Stir of Echoes could have easily been a Blumhouse movie.
Definitely. It definitely could have been a Blumhouse movie. No doubt about it.
I understand that it was also your wife ]actor Kyra Sedgwick] who had also possibly suggested that you and David work on a scary movie too.
Well, David and I were talking about a scary movie, and I was telling [Kyra] that I really want to do something with David. She said, “Well, what about a horror movie that has to do with a marriage?” At that point, I kind of ran that idea to David and, right away, I could see that he was really into it. And, like I said, we got very, very far. There was no actual script, but I believe he had already started on an outline when I read the book.
Then we ended up getting the book and it’s a lot different. I don’t know if you’ve read the book. It’s an excellent book, but there’s a lot of differences. But the essence of this family and these people in this rented house is kind of the same.
I did read the book, and in the book, your character is a screenwriter. But in the finished film, he’s sort of a wealthy retired banker with some things in his past while his wife is an actor. Did you already have the backgrounds of the characters in mind before you melded your ideas with the book’s story?
Yeah. One of the first things David said is that he wanted to not have me be a screenwriter. I think that, for good reason, he felt like that had been done by him for Secret Window and by others, really well and successfully. He just wanted to just give it a different vibe. There was also the idea that we really wanted the wife–on top of the fact that we wanted her to be way too young for him–we also thought it would be an interesting idea if she was an actor because of the built-in sort of paranoia that somebody could have being in a relationship with an actor, based on the kind of intimacy that they have to experience on a set.
If my character was not in the business, it was going to create more of a gap. All those details were really very important. Also, the fact that my character doesn’t really have much of a job at this point, I’m sort of with my daughter and at a different point in my life than my wife is. So yeah, the writer thing was gone pretty quickly.
The idea of doing a horror movie about marriage is interesting because horror movies are usually about some sort of outside force intruding on everyday life, and marriage is the most intimate, closed loop you can have, in a way. It’s between those two people. So it’s potentially terrifying when this outside force intrudes on that.
Yeah. And then when you add a child to that… you can either have a happy kind of couple and a perfect thing and then this outside force enters, or you can have something that already has its own built-in kind of dysfunction, which to me is much more interesting because then you have layers on layers on layers, and I think that David did a really excellent job in weaving, not just the scary kind of powers but also the drama that is going on between these two people.
The house is not your standard Hollywood haunted house. It’s not Gothic and run-down, but modern, clean and well-lit.
David just kind of thought this could be sort of like a… there could be something creepy about it. He felt that the house should not be a traditional Gothic kind of antique, creaky, ivy-covered horror house, that it should be something different and modern. So, then we had these parameters already that were possibly going to be very difficult parameters to find.
But he managed to find a modern house in Wales to use.
David was living in London at the time, so he didn’t want to shoot in the States. So he decided to set it in Wales, which I was happy to go over and work in Wales. And thankfully, so was Amanda.
Then we saw the pictures of this place called the Life House and it was almost too much to handle because we immediately thought, “Oh, no, what are we going to do if we can’t get this house? This house is just too perfect. We have to shoot in this place.” Eventually, we were able to work it out. It is a place that you actually can rent. We shot a great deal inside the house in Wales, and a lot of exteriors and driving, and country shots, and all the exteriors of the house and, simultaneously, our kind of brilliant UK-based production designer and crew were creating the interiors down on a stage across from Wembley (in London), in a way that could make them expand and change, and work in the ways that David had envisioned them.
The movie kind of moves seamlessly between the two.
It was a very, very complicated kind of thing for him to keep in his mind because if you’re shooting all this stuff in Wales, it’s all got to cut seamlessly with what we’re going to do back in the UK. Especially when you are going into rooms that don’t logically lead to other rooms, and then there’s staircases where there didn’t used to be, and all those kinds of things that the house starts doing. It was a lot to handle and I thought he did a great job. Well, everybody on the crew did, really.
You Should Have Left is out today on premium VOD.