October 21, 2010

Last House on the Left (2009)

I KNOW THAT Wes Craven’s 1972 film The Last House on the Left is heralded as a classic by many horror buffs, and it even has a fan in legendary critic Roger Ebert.

But for me, the original Last House is an odd blend of truly terrifying scenes juxtaposed with hippy-dippy interludes that somewhat dilute the tension Craven had successfully created. In my opinion, the reputation of Last House as a horror classic is more powerful than the film itself.

Fast-forward to 2009, and amongst the sea of McRemakes that have been flooding our theaters lately, there came a new version of Last House on the Left


The wholesome, well-to-do Collingwood family – dad John (Ghost’s Tony Goldwyn), mom Emma (Monica Potter), and teenage daughter Mari (Sara Paxton) – head to their huge summer house on Heavily Wooded, Winding Road With No Neighbors And The Nearest Town Is 20 Minutes Away Lane.

In town, Mari and her friend Paige (Martha MacIsaac) meet shy, brooding teenager Justin (Spencer Treat Clark), who innocently invites them to smoke weed with him in his motel room. Soon, the girls are introduced to the rest of Justin’s family: dad Krug (Garret Dillahunt), uncle Frank (Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul), and Krug’s girlfriend Sadie (Riki Lindhome).

Since Krug and his cronies are on the front page of the local papers for murdering two policemen, he decides they can’t risk letting the girls go. But when the girls try to escape, their captors quickly become their torturers – beating, stabbing, and raping the girls before leaving them for dead.

Later that night, Krug’s crew stops for help during a thunderstorm at, by sheer coincidence, the home of Mari’s parents. Initially neither group knows the other has a tie to Mari, but that soon changes – and it becomes a violent battle for escape, survival, and revenge.


Last House on the Left is the second Craven remake I’ve seen that has, on some level, improved on the original. (While no masterpiece, 2006's The Hills Have Eyes was much more harrowing and brutal than Craven’s 1977 version.)

I felt a bit uncomfortable during the first half of Last House, both in knowing what fate awaited the girls and then having to witness it. But the second half of the film – after John and Emma realize who Krug and company are and what they did to Mari – kept me glued to the screen until the credits rolled.

Sharone Meir’s cinematography and the musical score by John Murphy give Last House an atmosphere of mainstream drama rather than horror film, which makes the violence and terror that unfolds much more realistic – and possibly hitting too close to home, both literally for the Collingwood family and figuratively for the viewer.

Just like the original, Last House on the Left explores how the allegedly civilized can become the savages, either out of pure survival or brutal vengeance. And much like Craven’s 1972 effort, I would hardly call this version a classic. But it built and improved on the original, it entertained me, and I was exhilarated when John and Emma start extracting revenge on Krug and his crew.

Is it suitable for your kids?
That would be a big fat no. Last House on the Left contains a slew of bloody shootings, stranglings, stabbings, and bludgeonings, as well as a graphic, lengthy rape scene, a close-up of a broken nose being stitched, and an over-the-top death by microwave. There are also several topless scenes courtesy of Lindhome, and Justin and the girls smoke weed in his motel room.

Will your FilmMother want to watch it?
Last House on the Left is tough to watch regardless of gender, but I would think that the violence and sexual assaults on the girls would turn off many female viewers.

Bottle of white / Bottle of red / Perhaps a bottle upside your head…

Last House on the Left
* Director: Dennis Iliadis
* Screenwriters: Adam Alleca, Carl Ellsworth
* Stars: Tony Goldwyn, Monica Potter, Sara Paxton, Martha MacIsaac, Spencer Treat Clark, Garret Dillahunt, Aaron Paul, Riki Lindhome
* MPAA Rating: R

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StuartOhQueue said...

I agree with you on "The Hills Have Eyes." As much as I love the original, Aja had something going with his remake. I can understand why many critics panned it but I think it's a shame it hasn't been defended by more fans of the "gore-or" genre.

FilmFather said...

Thanks, Stu. Yeah, I'm surprised that THHE '06 doesn't have more of a devout following as well. What sold me was the sequence where the dad breaks down the big mutant bit by bit via a screwdriver, an American flag, and an ax. Beyond awesome.

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