The Last House on the Left

Dennis Iliadis’ The Last House on the Left had some mighty big shoes to fill.  It must have been pretty intimidating remaking the Wes Craven (who also produced this modern update) cult-classic that is based on one of Ingmar Bergman’s most disturbing films.  Both of it’s predecessors are highly praised by many (if you need convincing, watch Ang Lee practically lose his load as he introduces The Virgin Spring on the Criterion Collection edition of the DVD).  Despite enormous expectations, and Iliadis’ considerable lack of experience (his only other directing credit comes from 2004’s Hardcore), Last House manages to be an effectively terrifying, if overly-polished thriller.

The story can be (and was) told almost completely in the trailer that literally included the film’s finale, but I’ll still recap it for those who haven’t seen it.  John and Emma Collingwood (played by Tony Goldwyn and Monica Potter) take their daughter Mari (Sara Paxton) to their summer cabin to enjoy a few months of relaxation at the lake.  Unfortunately, Mari and her friend Paige get mixed up with an unruly crew of murderers who can’t release the two girls because blah, blah, blah.  The bad guys think they kill Mari, but they don’t, the bad guys end up staying the night at Mari’s parents’ place not knowing of the coincidence, and when John and Emma find out what they’ve done, they decide to take justice into their own hands.  Wes Craven received the writing credit for the original, and Adam Alleca and Carl Ellsworth (Disturbia, Red Eye) are credited for the remake.

The story gives in to common horror cliches far too often.  An incoming storm not only isolates the lake house from civilization, but conveniently knocks the power out, leaving the house in spooky candlelight, tense cat and mouse antics throughout the house defy logic, no one runs when they’re supposed to, etc., etc.  This update also lacks the terrifying realism of Wes Craven’s original.  Here, the characters (especially the bad guys) are flat, there’s no humanity left in them at all.  On the flip side, the good guys are great parents, good homemakers, and are dealing with the recent loss of another child, there’s no gray area.  The Krug (the ringleader) of the seventies version was terrifying in that the disembowelment of a young woman was a joke, something to laugh at with friends, where as new Krug (Garret Dillahunt) clearly understood the gravitas of the situation.  The acting barely deserves mention as it’s not bad enough to jeer, and not good enough to praise.

Going into the theater, I fully expected Iliadis to dip into the torture-porn genre, relying on extremely graphic violence and brutally violent sex acts to make up for the inability to create tension and drama.  While there is graphic violence, and a brutal rape scene that made seven or eight people literally sprint for the exit, Iliadis has no problem creating a tension that will keep viewers with strong enough stomachs glued to their seats.  Filmed almost in real time, and a lack of focus on dialogue sucks the viewer in and doesn’t let go until the credits start rolling.  Does Iliadis sometime use cheap methods of achieving this?  Yes.  Is The Last House on the Left worth owning?  Probably not.  But despite all these complaints, it doesn’t take away from the how entertained you’ll be.  Now, the discussion of the morality of watching this as entertainment is a separate issue, but for those who love horror, thrillers, and shameless tales of revenge, this flick is worth checking out.


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2 Responses to “The Last House on the Left”
  1. coffee says:

    this looks one where we’ll be glad to see the bad guys kicked to the curb

  2. Reel Whore says:

    This one wasn’t a home run for me. I enjoyed it mostly. Wished the bad guys were more insane but loved how insane the family became.

    For all the money the fam had, why couldn’t they own a cb radio for those “frequent outages” they experienced?! I’m just saying.

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