Last House on the Left (2009)
Directed by: Dennis Iliadis
Premise: A remake of Wes Craven’s 1972 film, which was a retelling of Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring. A pair of teenage girls are kidnapped, tortured, and murdered by a gang of sadistic criminals. The gang unknowingly takes shelter at the home of one of their victims and when her parents discover what has happened, they take revenge.
What Works: Last House on the Left is yet another remake of a 1970s horror film but in this case the filmmakers have made a concerted effort to improve upon the original film and more often than not they succeed. The original film is remembered more by reputation and for launching the careers of Wes Craven, Sean Cunningham, and Steve Miner than for anything to do with the quality of picture, which is quite low. Where the original was an extremely low budget production with clumsy camera work, amateur acting, and a plot that relied heavily on coincidence, the remake is slickly produced, has a more or less logical plotline, and has some very strong performances. The first two acts of the story are done very well, introducing the characters and giving them some background. Among the actors, the interaction between gang leader Krug (Garret Dillahunt) and his son (Spencer Treat Clark) is really interesting to watch. One interesting decision by the filmmakers of the remake is how to stage the violence. Where other remakes of the films of the 1970s, like Marcus Nispel’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre, have often introduced a lot more gore into their productions, Last House on the Left actually scales back the torture and murder of the girls. While it does not have the same excessive shock of the original, it is a bit more tastefully done and thereby more accessible for audiences.
What Doesn’t: Last House on the Left goes awry in the third act of the story in two ways. First, it is not paced very well and the climax seems to go on forever. Second, the film loses the main thematic message of the original film, wherein the docile and civilized parents become as vicious as the gang members. That idea is gone in this version and as a result the remake loses the subversive quality of the original and ends the picture on a more optimistic note. It is a trade off that is sure to disappoint purists but it also robs the story of what made it more than just a revenge flick.
Bottom Line: The remake of Last House on the Left is one of the best, if not the best, in this recent cycle of remakes of 1970s and 80s horror films because it does improve on the original film. What the remake is unable to do, however, is to upset the establishment the way the original film did.
Episode: #232 (March 22, 2009)