Monday, September 28, 2009

The Last House on the Left (2009)

Another week, another horror movie remake. This time around, it’s Wes Craven’s cringe-worthy classic, The Last House on the Left (which is loosely based on Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring), being remade by director Dennis Iliadis and written by Adam Alleca and Carl Ellsworth. Wes Craven’s original is a gritty and shocking film whose disturbing subject matter should at least be experienced once (that’s as much as I could handle). The remake, while competently made, lacks the down-and-dirty look and intense feel of the original. It is among one of the better reboots out there, but if you look at recent remade films out there like Friday the 13th, it’s not saying much.

Following the story of the original pretty closely, the remake tells the story of upper class family the Collingwood’s – doctor daddy John (Tony Goldwyn), overprotective mother Emma (Monica Potter) and 17-year-old Mari (Sara Paxton) – who are heading to their isolated summer house for a relaxing vacation. The first day there, Mari begs mom and dad to take the car into town to visit her friend Paige (Martha MacIsaac). They acquiesce, and Mari roars into town, looking to have some fun with Paige.

They meet twitchy Justin (Spencer Treat Clark), who invites them back to his motel room to get high. Once there, the impromptu party is interrupted by Justin’s dad and recently escaped convict, Krug (Garret Dillahunt), Uncle Francis (Aaron Paul) and Sadie (Riki Lindhome). Turns out they are all on the run after killing some cops and don’t want to leave the girls behind as witnesses. They drag Mari and Paige out to the woods, torture them, rape one of them, and leave them both for dead.

The quartet of killers seeks respite from a harsh storm in the nearby house of the Collingwood’s, not realizing that they are the parents of Mari. When the parents realize what they have done to their daughter, they seek swift revenge on the murderers.

This is a pretty cut and dry remake with just a few changes made to the script (well, and one big and glaringly evident change that you can see in the trailer). Nothing is really done to make it its own film or to make it a better film, period. I will credit the writers with not dumbing down most of the film (well, except for the dialogue) like other remakes, but they really should have risked a bit more with the script and written something different to make this remake stand out. Unfortunately, while it’s a well-made and watchable film, it is easily forgotten whereas the original will be seared in my mind forever.

As for the brutal rape scene, yes, it is graphic and seems to go on forever, but the rest of the girls’ tortures seemed easy and breezy in comparison. Where in the original film their entire ordeal was horrific and humiliating, in the remake it is the rape scene that is the most brutal. Why is this a problem? Well, with the rape scene being the most disturbing, all of the other scenes that are supposed to be filled with tension pale in comparison. The rest of the film is just easy to sit through, which made it rather dull. Even the blood-splattered revenge sequence, while ultimately satisfying (except for the SILLIEST use of a microwave this side of Microwave Massacre!), felt like it lacked viciousness.

Also lacking viciousness was the acting from Garret Dillahunt, who played Krug. He was about as scary as a box of kittens and didn’t have a glimmer of intimidation in his glare. As the leader, he was supposed to be the most frightening of the killers, but I was no way threatened by him and felt he did a poor job portraying a sadistic psychopath, especially when compared with David Hess’ unnerving original performance. Aaron Paul and Riki Lindhome did a much better job playing Krug’s thugs, Francis and Sadie, both giving creepy and menacing performances. I also thought Sara Paxton did a fantastic job playing Mari, with fantastic performances also coming from Monica Potter and Tony Goldwyn as her parents.

The original The Last House on the Left was a fantastic social commentary on the paranoia of the changing times (Craven was inspired to write the film in response to the atrocities going on during the Vietnam War), loss of innocence, not trusting strangers, and a “what if” scenario to see what people would do when pushed to their physical, emotional and psychological limits. The remake sticks to these original concepts, but doesn’t realize that times have changed and these themes have been done to death and that perhaps new, more current ones should be explored. Therefore, it brings nothing new to the table and is ultimately a forgettable movie. However, I will say that it is much better than the teeny-bopper, bubblegum horror remakes like Friday the 13th, Prom Night, etc. that the studios insist on putting out. If you have your mind set on seeing a remake, I would tepidly recommend this House…but not without reservations.

Order it on Amazon!

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