BBFC Classification: 18
Director: Dennis Iliadis
Starring: Sara Paxton, Garret Dillahunt, Monica Potter, Tony Goldwyn, Josh Coxx, Spencer Treat Clark, Aaron Paul, Riki Lindhome, Martha Maclsaac
When discussing movies, and remakes in particular, the word ‘classic’ is often bandied around, usually in a sentence that goes along the lines of “They shouldn’t remake the classics” or “They shouldn’t touch that – it’s a classic”. This may have been true in the past, with classics like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, The Wicker Man and The Omen all getting makeovers with varying results. The Last House on the Left just about gets away with it because Wes Craven’s 1972 original was a very crude piece of filmmaking and was more groundbreaking than it was actually any good. The word ‘classic’ implies that it is universally loved and appreciated, and Craven’s film certainly wasn’t/isn’t that. It was a movie that split audiences down the middle – those who saw it as a slightly arty commentary on how cruel society was, or those who saw it as cheap exploitation – but whatever side of the argument you went with, one couldn’t deny its power and the fact that it was probably the first movie that fell into the horror category without having aliens, monsters, vampires or zombies as the central antagonists. It’s power came from the fact that the monster in the movie was a person, or group of people, and that the events really could take place.
The plot of the movie is essentially the same as the original with a few minor cosmetic changes, but for those who haven’t had the pleasure it goes something like this – John (Tony Goldwyn – Ghost) and Emma (Monica Potter – Saw) Collingwood go to their lakeside summer house with their teenage daughter Mari (Sara Paxton – The Innkeepers). After arriving Mari takes the family car and visits her friend Paige (Martha Maclsaac – Superbad), who works in the local convenience store. Overhearing the girls talking about smoking pot, a teenage boy called Justin (Spencer Treat Clark – The Last Exorcism Part II) invites the girls back to his motel room to indulge in a little narcotic usage, but just when Justin, Paige and Mari are starting to enjoy themselves they are interrupted by Justin’s escaped convict father Krug (Garret Dillahunt – No Country For Old Men), his lover Sadie (Riki Lindhome – Million Dollar Baby) and his brother Frank (Aaron Paul – Need For Speed), and they’re not happy. Not wanting to risk being caught, the gang kidnap the girls, steal their car and head out into the country where Krug and his cronies proceed to torture and rape the girls before heading off the seek shelter from an oncoming storm. Unfortunately the house they choose to seek shelter in belongs to the Collingwood’s, and once John and Emma twig what has been happening the fun really starts…
As previously stated the basic plot differs very little from the original, and as far as remakes go this one is pretty solid. The actors are all fine in their roles, with particular credit going to Goldwyn and Potter as the distraught parents forced to go against everything they believe in to exact revenge on their daughter’s torturers. The character of Krug was very interesting, as Dillahunt plays him with appropriate coldness and cruelty, although he does lack the wicked charm of the David Hess from the original.
The rape scene is as uncomfortable to watch as you would expect but the other tortures dished out on the girls don’t seem quite as degrading, in as much as although you are still watching innocent young girls getting punched and stabbed, nobody is forced to piss themselves as they were in the original. The violence that is dished out once the Collingwood’s find out who they are sheltering is suitably grisly, especially Krug’s ultimate demise, although whether it is possible to do what John does to him is questionable. To say any more would mean spoilers so you’ll just have to watch, but due to its unlikely plausibility it does detract slightly from the overall flow. Well done (!) visually, but just a bit too absurd.
Overall, though, The Last House on the Left is a well made, well acted and very watchable thriller. Due to it being a remake, and a remake of a movie over forty years old, it could never have the shocking impact of its source material but that probably isn’t the point. Wes Craven has often stated that his original movie was made by a bunch of people not really knowing what they were doing so this was his chance to do it properly, and he has. Doing the same thing as he did with the 2006 remake of The Hills Have Eyes, Craven has hired a younger director to add a different flavour to his vision and Dennis Lliadis certainly brings a more colourful sense of style to proceedings. People may bemoan it being more polished and more professional – Lliadis uses some wonderful long shots and his eye for colours is fantastic – but surely that is the point of a remake; taking something that wasn’t that great to start with and making it better.
There are quite a few continuity and editing errors, and that ending is slightly dodgy, but this is one remake that updates its source material nicely whilst retaining the edge and threat of the original. It isn’t groundbreaking like that movie was but it is easier to watch and, unlike the original, will withstand repeated viewings.
Special Features: Deleted scenes, A Look Inside featurette
UK Release Date: 19th October 2009